The rationale for the range of disciplines seen as relevant to design is bound up with Fuller's opposition to specialization, which, from a historical-political point-of-view he saw as tied to divide-and-rule power structures, and from a biological point-of-view as running the risk of over- specialization, leading to extinction (Operating Manual, pp.28,36).

"Design Strategy", chapter 11 of "Utopia or Oblivion", includes a list of "self-disciplines". What would normally be thought of as technical disciplines become self-disciplines, presumably because of the emphasis placed on the personal responsibility of the designer (see Initiative). The list constitutes a design science curriculum, and it can be augmented and filled out by collating it with the list of "pertinent arts" included in "Universal Requirements".

  1. Synergetics: the philosophy of mensuration and transformation.
  2. Topology: projective geometry - branches of mathematics directly relevant to the above.
  3. Theory of Games: analytic methods developed by von Neumann and others for modelling games and aiding decision-making in complex situations.
  4. Communications: includes information theory directly relevant to 5 and 6.
  5. General System Theory: scientific study of what properties systems have in common, e.g. ("wholeness") includes also systems technology and systems philosophy pioneered by Ludwig von Bertalanffy.
  6. Cybernetics: theory of control and communication mechanisms, whether in machines, organisms or institutions pioneered by Norbert Weiner and others. Closely related to General Systems Theory.
  7. Sciences of energy - physics and chemistry: though listed as distinct disciplines, it is hard to see what science of energy remains beyond the consideration of physics and chemistry. Four "pertinent arts" can be subsumed here: the theories of structure, mechanical and chemical exploration, and the study of energy as structure.
  8. Meteorology: clearly relevant in context of "Universal Requirements".
  9. Geology.
  10. Biology: clearly relevant in context of "Universal Requirements": animal (especially human) and plant biology, and ecology.
  11. Political Geography.
  12. Anthropology.
  13. Ergonomics: human-machine interaction and adaptation.
  14. Theory of structural complex.
  15. Theory of service complex.
  16. Theory of process.
  17. Theory of complex resolution.
  18. (14-17 not explicated by Fuller)

  19. Production engineering: this can be taken to subsume the three pertinent arts:
    theory of structural and mechanical logistics
    tensioning by crystalline, pneumatic, hydraulic, magnetic means
    compression by such means.
  20. Dwelling Process Theory:
    dwelling process as an "energy exchange" (see Performance)
    dwelling process as an "energy balance sheet".
  21. Addenda: omitted disciplines:

  22. Economics: this is absent from the lists presumably because Fuller's concept of wealth transcends questions of money and markets. Nonetheless, he devotes substantial parts of his writings to discussions of economic themes and can be seen as propounding his own economic theory.
  23. History: as with economics, this is unmentioned despite the fact that Fuller has written extensively on historical matters (see Epic Poem, Critical Path).
  24. Psychology: although Fuller nowhere presents a comprehensive psychology, the discipline is hardly irrelevant, given the space devoted to his peculiar theories on the mind-brain relation in "Intuition", and the fact that "Synergetics" is subtitled "Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking". Added to this are his interests in heuristics and in education (see Education Automation).
  25. Design Axiology: taken from Bruce Archer's l0-part breakdown of the design field, this denotes "the study of worth in the design area, with special regard to the relations between technical, economic, moral, social and aesthetic values" (Jacques and Powell, 1981, p.33). The other 9 parts can be mapped onto Fuller's list, but, while value-judgements dot the pages of all his texts, they are not the object of scrutiny in themselves.



Paul Taylor 2001