Studies on design process have been conducted by a number of scholars. They concentrate on explaining the phenomenon occurring in the design process and interpret design as an informal, collective, and generational process (Chan, 1992a). Such approaches do not yield insight about how a designer does design and how a design process generates a design product that manifests style and creativity. In particular, the concepts of how a style is generated and why a designer is creative are not well studied. Therefore, architectural students lack of a clear understanding of how expert and creative designers handle design. Nor they have a chance to enhance their design ability and their design quality.


A study of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs (Chan, 1992b).


My research focuses on the science of design by exploring what occurs in the black box--the architect's mind--during design (Chan, 1990). The science of design is defined as a body of intellectually tough, analytic, partly formalizable, partly empirical, teachable doctrine about the design process (Simon, 1969). In architectural design, the science of design is referred to as a body of knowledge that should be known about design process and this body of knowledge can be obtained from empirical explorations. The means of exploration has an objective, systematic, and methodological basis that relates to the fields of cognitive science and artificial intelligence. Methods included the development of hypotheses and then conducting a number of observations and experiments to validate the hypotheses. The end of the exploration provides some theories about design processes and their generated design products. One theory, obtained from my past research through the proposition of empirical methods (Chan, 1993), explicitly describes the meaning and the formation of style (Chan, 1994) which can be seen as the products created by design processes (Chan, 1995).

Current works are concentrated more on applying virtual reality (VR) to aid architectural design processes. Two projects supported by grants had generated interesting results (Chan, 1999a; 1999b). Hopefully, it is possible to explore more through VR on the thinking processes that relate to creativity.

  1. Chan C S, 1990, Cognitive processes in architectural design problem solving Design Studies, 11(2), pp.60-80.
  2. Chan C S, 1992a, Exploring individual style in design Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 19, pp.503-523.
  3. Chan C S, 1992b, Exploring individual style through Wright's designs Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 9, pp.207-238.
  4. Chan C S, 1993, How an individual style is generated Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 20, pp.391-423.
  5. Chan C S, 1994, Operational definitions of style Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 21, pp.223-246.
  6. Chan C S, 1995, A cognitive theory of style Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 22, pp.461-474.
  7. Simon H A, 1969, The sciences of the artificial (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA).
  8. Chan, C. S., Hill, L. & Cruz-Neira, C. (1999a), Can Design be Done in Full-scale Representation? Proceedings of the 4th Design Thinking Research Symposium - Design Representation. MIT, Boston, II. pp.139-148.
  9. Chan, C. S., Maves, J. & Cruz-Neira, C. (1999b), An Electronic Library for Teaching Architectural History, In J. Gu, & Z. Wei (Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Computer Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia , Shanghai Scientific and Technological Literature Publishing House. pp. 335-344.