Design Science

Bucky was the first sustainable designer of the 20th century, and his ideas have influenced numerous others. See the list in the Wikipedia article for examples.

He named his discipline for coming up with inventions “Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science” (CADS).

Taking Each Word in Turn


“Comprehensive” means to take a big picture view. Even before we start work on a new design, we zoom out to see what larger and slower systems will provide its context. Then we model the smaller and faster components which will comprise its internal workings. At that point we refocus to exclude what’s inapplicable in larger and smaller systems. This discipline of design science takes us from wholes to parts, without leaving out anything critical.


“Anticipatory” means that we visualize a preferred future and work towards it. Bucky, an early futurist, contributed conceptual tools for thinking, as relevant today as ever, about systemic change, such as: trimtab, precession, and creating new models.

Finally, Bucky said all of our work should use the tools of “Design Science.”

Design Scientist

“A design scientist, like many research scientists, does not wait to be hired by a patron or employer to do their bidding but rather takes the personal initiative to solve the problems that his/her experience has taught are important to solve for the betterment of humanity. Unlike “pure” science which sometimes claims to be value-free, design science is value-laden. Design is the development of structuring of environments in preferred directions. Our preferred directions, “where we want to go,” are determined by our values…”

Medard Gabel, Ho-Ping: Food for Everyone

Generalized Principles

Design science involves discovering and using generalized principles. A “generalized principle” is a “law of nature” that describes interrelationships among system components. Bucky emphasized that every event and system is unique or special, yet generalized principles obtain in every special case, with no exceptions.

One example of a generalized principle is: doing more with less. Bucky termed this trend “ephemeralization” (Arnold Toynbee: “etherealization”) and this principle is widely manifest in sustainable and regenerative designs.  

In a social sense, CADS applies generalized principles to the realization of designs in ways consistent with shared social values. An example of design science in action, is the World Game, wherein participants collaboratively work towards solutions to pressing problems on behalf of all humanity.

Our hope is that, as the practice of CADS becomes more widespread, humans will come into greater alignment with universal patterns and with each other. Greater success for all humanity in harmony with other living systems would be an anticipated consequence.

Overview of Design Science