Title: The Brains of Designers
Most designers – be they architects, engineers, industrial designers, etc. – share the intuition that there are a set of core cognitive capacities that they share with each with other but not with nondesigners. This intuition has been articulated by number of people over the past 50 years. Over the past 25 years several attempts have been made to characterize these capacities within a cognitive science/information processing theory framework. I will take this opportunity to extend this characterization by reviewing several relevant findings from neuroscience that relate these cognitive capacities to brain organization and function. I will also ask the question whether there is something "special" about designers' brains, and if so, is it inherited or acquired. My answers to these latter questions will be speculative.
Vinod Goel studied architectural design and computer science as an undergraduate. He received his PhD in Cognitive Science from UC-Berkeley, followed by postdoctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at the NIH, USA and Institute of Neurology/UCL, UK. He is currently a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at York University, Canada, and the University of Hull, UK. His research uses brain imaging (fMRI) and lesion analyses techniques to study the cognitive, computational, and neural basis of rational thought processes ranging from logical inference to design problem-solving. This work has resulted in numerous, highly cited publications and has been recognized by a number of awards, including the McDonnell-Pew Program in Cognitive Neuroscience Award.