The Design Society Seminar Series: Complex Design Network Theory

... empirical and theoretical evidence that the demarcation of design and science.

The seminar series is back with a talk by Professor Dan Braha. 


In the 1998 book “A Mathematical Theory of Design,” I embarked on a path paving the way towards addressing Herbert Simon’s claim that “the science of design is possible and some day we will be able to talk in terms of well-established theories and practices.” Guided by the principle that understanding the building blocks of design processes is not enough and that one has to study the relationships between design elements led me to introduce the area of complex design networks. Still, there is a common belief in the design community that science analyses the existing world to create new knowledge while design uses existing knowledge to create a new world. In this talk, I will provide a brief review of complex design network theory, and moreover try to provide empirical and theoretical evidence that the demarcation of design and science is very blurry indeed.


Dan Braha is a Commonwealth Professor of Decision and Information Sciences at the University of Massachusetts and is also a co-faculty of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), where he conducts research and teaches courses in complex systems. He previously held visiting professorship positions at the MIT Engineering Systems Division, the MIT’s System Design and Management Program,  the MIT Center for Product Development, and Boston University’s Division of Systems Engineering, as well as held a tenured professorship in Israel.
Prof. Braha has published in various prestigious journals, authored a book on a mathematical theory of design, and edited eight additional books. His work is regularly cited and covered by various national and international news media including: Science Magazine, The Economist, Wired Magazine, Le Monde, The Huffington Post, New Scientist, The New Republic, Nova, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Standard-Times, International Business Times, The Irish Times, Science and Technology Daily (in Chinese), Business Insider, Technology Review (Published by MIT), and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Prof. Braha has also been invited to present his work as keynote and plenary speaker in high-profile international conferences and symposiums, including by The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the MIT SDM Systems Thinking, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), The IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society, the RAND Corporation, and GE Global Research.

Prof. Braha has contributed to a wide spectrum of interdisciplinary research areas. For example, in his 1998 book he introduced ‘Formal Design Theory,’ a computational and mathematical framework of design that directly impacted current thinking on design theories, including C-K theory. He was the first to incorporate ideas from the theory of computation, complexity, and information theory into design practice and research—an approach that impacted the vast work related to the measurement of structural and functional complexity of design artifacts and processes. Beginning in 2003, he has embarked on a new interdisciplinary area of design science, whose main objective is to characterize the real-world structure and dynamics of complex design networks. To this end, he has introduced novel methodologies for understanding the critical role of iterations in design as well as the functionality, dynamics, robustness, and fragility of large-scale engineering networks. This approach applies data-driven theoretical and computational models and tools of operations research, computer science, sociology,  statistical physics, and computational biology.

Prof. Braha’s passion for research is evenly matched with his passion for teaching, where he was honored to receive six times university teaching awards.

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