Critical Digital Conference '09Ends-Means: Exploring the implications of digital technology on traditional notions of value in design, 2009.

As design practices struggle to evaluate their roles within an industry dependent on the production and distribution of digital information, it is important to critically reflect on what constitutes value in contemporary design. Traditional sources of value were provided by individuals and design teams as hand-drawn, paper-based deliverables. The promotion of digital technology to define, store, and integrate the parameters and rules of a design process suggests that this may no longer be the case. The value proposition of contemporary digital design systems is to reduce the amount of time designers spend on repetitive tasks by providing the means through which to abstract and integrate various sources of design information and define logical rules for the management of that information. If we agree that this is the correct course of development, then it is imperative that the parties involved understand how these systems are structured in order to effectively and efficiently manipulate the data they contain. The difficulty in achieving these ends is not technical, but perceptual. A series of experiments in the expression of geometric forms through natural language algorithms were conducted to explore this argument.

Critical Digital Conference '08The representation of post design (v.) design information (n.), 2008.

Attempts to address interoperability issues in digital design information have become stilted. A lack of any real success is more indicative of the questions asked rather than the solutions proposed. If design information is the progenitor of design representation, and representation is a method by which to encode, store, and distribute design information, then the issues associated with digital design information can be seen as special cases of the general the problems associated with communication. Considering a representation by asking: ‘What is the information that needs to be communicated?’ and, ‘With whom is this information being communicated?’ may provide a better perspective from which to assess specific technological problems such as software interoperability. The goal of this paper is a call to attention – an exercise in critical thought and a provocation. Can re-conceptualizing the problems with the representation and interoperability of digital design information as generic problems of communication offer insight on novel solutions?


Building Information: Means and methods of communication in design and construction, 2008.

Architects are trained and practiced in the means and methods of design. These are distinct from the physical means and methods of construction, which have traditionally been in the hands of contractors. The successful realization of construction does not necessitate or rely on a direct link between the processes of design and construction. However, the constructability of a design is dependent on an effective means of communicating between the two. This thesis illustrates that the perceived complexity of constructability is often predicated on the efficacy of communication between the designer and the contractor. I present three models of communication: a linear transmissive model similar to that of Shannon and Weaver, a “speech-circuit” model based on that of Saussure, and a semiotic-constructionist model derived from Peirce and Papert. Through interviews, observations, and experiments with practicing architects and architecture students, I investigate the implications of these models on the perceived and contractual roles and responsibilities of architects and contractors. My findings suggest that in design, communication is also an act of design and construction. Best illustrated by the constructionist model of communication, acts of making and re-making are fundamental to the way that architects and contractors relate to design information. The automation of these acts through emerging technologies – such as BIM – lead to increased reliance on fixed data constructs in lieu of dynamic, individual interpretations of information. This can result in the loss of expert knowledge which does not fit a standardized model, and the dis-integration of meaningful communication between design and construction information.

Design Computing + Cognition '08

Designing Meaning: A Framework for XML-based Rule Definition and Validation in
Digital Design Documentation, 2008.

The management and coordination of design information has become a critical issue with regard to increasing demands on contemporary architectural design projects. Paper-based design documentation is no longer an effective medium for capturing or translating descriptions of many architectural design projects. Further, contemporary software platforms do not provide useful means for creating and exchanging design documents. If design is one of the foundations for change in society, then the current world of design information exchange is unsuited to meet the requirements of contemporary designers and needs to be improved.

JLobel_VSMM07The Value of Digital Simulation in Design Conception, 2007

Novel insights into the nature of architectural design problems can be derived from digital simulations. By transforming the subject of design interrogation from a mental construct into a numerical one, causal assumptions that may go unnoticed and unappreciated in an implicit design process are required to be made explicit as conditional statements. Assuming there are indefinitely many ways to associate design intentions with design manifestations, relational decisions necessarily made in the process of code-writing shed light on the implied, or desired outcome of a particular design solution.


  1. S.C.

    Dear Sir,
    I am highly interested in including in my reading your following publications:
    1) Ends-Means: Exploring the implications of digital technology on traditional notions of value in design, 2009.
    2) The Value of Digital Simulation in Design Conception, 2007

    Unfortunately, though I searched really all over the internet to find them, I couldn’t.
    It seems that their links are broken. Would you be so kind and send them to me in the email provided, if you can whenever you find some time. I would appreciate it greatly.

    Yours sincerely,
    S Carydis

    • Josh Lobel


      Thank you for your interest and for notifying me about the broken links for the papers. I have updated those links and they should be available now. Let me know if you have any questions or would like any clarification on the content since I wrote these quite a while ago.


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