Design As … A Re-Reading of ‘Design’s’ Conceptual Metaphors

Document Type : Original Article


1 PhD Candidate, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University

2 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University


During the past 50 years design research theories have cast light on the concept of ‘design’. Since this is a complicated, abstract concept, it needs appropriate conceptual and methodological frameworks in order to clarify the multifaceted, complex aspects of this human act. Among more important contemporary epistemological theories is the ‘conceptual metaphor’ theory, which has also been welcome in design research circles. Scrutinising design research’s two main paradigms, namely, ‘rational problem solving’ and ‘reflection in action’, one can find the development extended theories thanks to ‘conceptual metaphor’. Whilst the two above paradigms have been undergoing revisions in the past 20 years, various complementary, explanatory metaphors have emerged on the concept of design. The present research focuses on the contents of two creditable early design research publications to select key conceptual metaphors for explaining design concept. Alongside the two above-mentioned paradigms, the most important metaphors include ‘bricolage’, ‘co-evolution’, ‘disclosure’, ‘dialogue’ and ‘play’. In the end a series of graphics illustrate each metaphor, and with them their implicit and explicit aspects of the concept of design in each metaphor. The paper concludes that hermeneutic metaphors i.e. ‘disclosure’, ‘dialogue’, and ‘play’ best suit the clarification of the concept of design, which is due to their proximity with design mechanisms. As such, they are among the most suitable design metaphors for design research.


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