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A Second Look at Primary Generators

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Jane Darke’s (1979) paper ‘The Primary Generator and the Design Process’ appeared in the first issue of the journal Design Studies. Over the course of the following four decades of design research, the paper has turned into a must-read classic. In a revaluation of subjectivity in design, Darke (1979) described the primary generator as an imposed focus on a limited set of – typically subjectively valued – constraints, and as a way in to the problem for the architect. We revisit Darke’s paper to illustrate how the primary generator concept may be read as either a random starting point within a subset of constraints to be iteratively adjusted, or as a subjectively valued organizing principle that drives the design process. It may also be read as either a liberating force of subjective creative freedom, or as a subjective source of bias and fixation that the architect may be unwilling or unable to later escape. Darke herself held both these positions across time. Her ideas on the malleability of the design space and the very initiation of the creative design process by imposition of constraints have been critical in the evolution of constraint research, which denotes a rich strand of interdisciplinary design research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalShe Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation
Pages (from-to)7-23
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Primary generator, architecture, constraints, design process, prestructuring

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ID: 199951267