i3, une unité mixte de recherche CNRS (UMR 9217)

Institut Interdisciplinaire de l'Innovation

Theory and models for design

Coordinators : Annie Gentes & Benoît Weil

Knowledge and creation economies are based on design activities. These activities have to take up new challenges (Information and communication technologies (ICT) and new media, new forms of mobility, sustainable development, nanotechnologies, biotech, new energies, healthcare, design for employment, etc.) on which a growing number of actors are presently getting involved (engineers, researchers, marketing experts, architects, artists, users, etc.). Both features have contributed to the development of new formal models of design activity, in both their cognitive and organisational dimensions.

Since the 1980s, pioneering work has been undertaken in this field by researchers involved in i3. In particular, the C-K theory (Conception – Knowledge) has proposed new theoretical frameworks for describing the creative dynamics of reasoning in design, by paving the way to rigorous and cumulative research on design activities. This theory is currently at the origin of a significant international revival of theoretical research on design, and has been applied in numerous companies for helping them to improve innovation strategies and organising innovation teams and research management.

More generally, the researchers involved in i3 focus on innovation in a state of “strong exploration” – when the objects of the action and the concerned collectives are uncertain and unsettled. The attention paid to the devices and the practices implemented to meet the challenges this type of exploration puts out is distinctive of these research works. Although the levels of analysis may vary (company, network, sector), they all address the study of design tools, forms of partnership and spaces of innovation. 

The research programme is organised around three main issues:

1. Deepening and expanding the design reasoning models.  

The developed models are based on intuitionism, the forcing mathematical method invented by Paul Cohen (1966 Fields Medal winner), L.-J. Brouwer’s theories of the creative subject, and his models of capitalisation on flexible and heterogeneous knowledge. Now, it is a question of testing these developments by confronting them to other models of “inventiveness” developed in various fields (engineering, architecture, software, virtual worlds, etc.). A particular attention will be paid to the various representations of “imagination” proposed by the associated teams (CGS Mines ParisTech, the Codesign Telecom ParisTech team, Telecom ParisTech Chair “Modelling of imagination”).

2.  New models of breakthrough innovation management. 

The point is to put the new approaches of design to good use and to characterise the type of collective exploration and management they are building: this refers in particular to the methods of collective creativity inspired by the C-K theory, to the forms of cooperation into the unknown, and to the new models of innovative projects management or breakthrough innovation management (“full value” proposed by CRG, etc.). The long-term cooperation set up through these research works between the CGS at Mines ParisTech and the CRG at École Polytechnique (Chair of Innovation Management) will be extended in conjunction with the economics and social sciences department at Telecom ParisTech. Their plan is to develop research on the new forms of concept prototyping (prototyping as a performance), the setting up of creation initiatives, the designing of original business models for innovations related to the ICTs.

3.  Object identity, new technologies and innovation. 

The research focuses on the approaches to design that integrate the theories of object identity (communication and semantics theories) and make it possible to tackle the critical and aesthetic dimensions of innovations. These research works assume notably that new technologies (ICTs, Human-Machine Interfaces etc.) are by nature open and “reflexive”. Their aim is to confront and unify recent theories of “objects-platforms”, “integrative objects” or “objects-uses producers” as they are elaborated by the concerned teams. More generally, these researches could offer a fresh perspective on the issue of the languages used to describe the objects and the technical systems, in connection with several contemporary domains of innovation (connected objects, assistance to the elderly, digital design, teleactivities, etc.).

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