The Sciences of Design: Observations on an Emerging Field

by Sandeep Purao, Carliss Y. Baldwin, Alan Hevner, Veda C. Storey, Jan Pries-Heje, Brian Smith & Ying Zhu

Overview — This paper examines the sciences of design as an emerging field of study that cuts across disciplinary boundaries. The paper summarizes and synthesizes the positions, reflections, opportunities, and challenges expressed at the first doctoral consortium to explore the topic, held in 2008. It thus provides a useful agenda for clarifying and articulating important strands of this nascent field. Key concepts include:

  • Design sciences is a movement that affects not only the information systems discipline but also several allied disciplines, which must also contribute to its definition and participation.
  • When a common language exists across disciplines, it enables an ongoing, productive pursuit of scientific knowledge. But common languages only come about through intense, repeated conversations between individuals with disparate views and open minds.

Author Abstract

The boundaries and contours of design sciences continue to undergo definition and refinement. In many ways, the sciences of design defy disciplinary characterization. They demand multiple epistemologies, theoretical orientations (e.g. construction, analysis or intervention) and value considerations. As our understanding of this emerging field of study grows, we become aware that the sciences of design require a systemic perspective that spans disciplinary boundaries. The Doctoral Consortium at the Design Science Research Conference in Information Sciences and Technology (DESRIST) was an important milepost in their evolution. It provided a forum where students and leading researchers in the design sciences challenged one another to tackle topics and concerns that are similar across different disciplines. This paper reports on the consortium outcomes and insights from mentors who took part in it. We develop a set of observations to guide the evolution of the sciences of design. It is our intent that the observations will be beneficial, not only for IS researchers, but also for colleagues in allied disciplines who are already contributing to shaping the sciences of design.

Paper Information