Design thinking in urbanism: Learning from the designers


URBAN DESIGN INTERNATIONAL, vol.17, no.4, pp.272-296, 2012 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 17 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1057/udi.2012.21
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.272-296
  • Keywords: urban design process, methodology, cognition and analysis
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Since the design methods movement of the 1960s, design studies have made significant progress in our understanding of design thinking in general. Nevertheless, urbanism's enduring lack of interest in the cognitive insights of design has caused the field to continue to rely on early procedural models, which have been invalidated by the emerging debates in design studies. The shortcomings of this theoretical condition are proven mainly by the disputable conceptualisations of analysis and design in spatial planning. Under the influence of the early approaches to planning, conventional models concerning urban design processes are yet to be updated according to the changing paradigms of design thinking. In this context, the article aims to revisit the idea of the design process in urbanism from a cognitive point of view in order to provide a conceptual framework that responds to both contemporary theories and to the actual practice of design. To that end, a historical review of the models of the design process is followed by an in- depth design analysis. The intrinsic features of design reasoning in action are revealed through a case study involving the urban projects of two designers. This leads to the development of a renewed recognition of the 'designerly way of thinking' in urbanism. A new conceptual framework is thought to suggest a relevant basis for future attempts to more efficiently integrate analytical methods into urban design. URBAN DESIGN International (2012) 17, 272-296. doi:10.1057/udi.2012.21; published online 19 September 2012