A design science primer

BFI is committed to continued research into the practice and fundamental principles of comprehensive anticipatory design science and its relevance to contemporary global issues and design practice. Below we offer a wide range of writings, presentations, and surveys from an array of international scholars pertaining to Design Science.

Design Science: A Framework for Change

Michael Ben-Eli

During the last quarter century, Buckminster Fuller’s concept of Design Science has come to mean different things to different people, evolving in the process into a potent combination of method, metaphor and myth.

Design Science: A Framework for Change is the result of a year of intensive research into Fuller’s conceptions and practice of design science as well as wide-ranging interviews with some of its key practitioners. The purpose of this document is to refocus the concept, address it in the context of some reflections about design in general, and link Design Science to the sustainability challenge facing humanity today.


Sustainability: five core principles

Michael Ben-Eli

Dr. Michael Ben-Eli is an international consultant on management and organization. He was a student and close associate of Buckminster Fuller, with whom he collaborated on projects involving research on advanced structural systems and exploration of issues related to the management of technology and world resources for the advantage of all.

The Five Core Principles of Sustainability have been developed to serve as a new framework to advance our understanding of what must guide our actions if we intend to implement breakthrough sustainability practices.

“If you wish to fly and want to successfully construct an aircraft in order to do so, you need to understand the basic principles of aerodynamics. Similarly, if we are serious about ensuring a sustainable future, we need to be guided by a set of principles which underlie sustainability as an enduring state.” — M. Ben-Eli


Design Science

Amy Edmondson

“I did not set out to design a geodesic dome,” Fuller once said, “I set out to discover the principles operative in Universe. For all I knew, this could have led to a pair of flying slippers.”

Places to Intervene in a System

Donella H. Meadows

Dr. Donella H. Meadows (Ph.D. in biophysics, Harvard University), a Pew Scholar in Conservation and Environment and a MacArthur Fellow, was one of the most influential environmental thinkers of the twentieth century.

The central thesis of Places to Intervene in the System is “Leverage points are not intuitive. Or if they are, we intuitively use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve.” Leverage points are those “places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”


Design as Savior, Designer as Slave

Jay Baldwin

As the implementers of technology, designers have a mandate to do better. Technology doesn’t just happen, it reaches society as the deliberate work of people acting as designers. Every product and procedure had been intentionally or inadvertently designed to be the way it is.

Environmental Design Science Primer

Howard Brown, Robert Cook & Medard Gabel

From the foreword: This primer outlines one alternative to present problem-solving techniques, an approach Buckminster Fuller calls “comprehensive anticipatory design science.” Design science is “the effective application of the principles of science to the conscious design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth’s finite resources meet the needs of all of humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet.”


Eight Strategies for Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science

Buckminster Fuller

In 1950, Buckminster Fuller set up an outline for a course in Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science, taught at MIT in 1956 as part of the Creative Engineering Laboratory.

A Candid Conversation With the Visionary Architect/inventor/ philosopher, R. Buckminster Fuller


This interview with Buckminster Fuller ran in the February 1972 issue of Playboy.


Fuller on Design Science

What are the resources? What are the tasks necessary to make 100% of humanity a success? How can we ever do so without ever advantaging one human at the expense of another? How may we render all the world and all its treasures enjoyable available to all men without having one interfering with or trespassing upon the other?

How Would You Define CADS?

In Summer 1992, we sent a questionnaire to a number of close colleagues and associates of Buckminster Fuller: This questionnaire on Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science (CADS)