I have been working with Erik Stolterman on a research paper that discusses the similarities between a design process and the process of biological evolution. While it may be easy to see that evolution occurs on a very surface level, my interest really lies deeper.
You see in genetic evolution all of the surface stuff — hair color, skin complexion, behavioral predispositions, etc. — is driven by a microscopic, genetic code that lies deeper within the organism. So, while it is possible to examine and analyze the qualities of evolution based on these outward manifestations, if you want to more deeply understand evolution you need to look at the code.
My quest then is to discuss the genetic or "design-code" that lies deeper within the design artifact and design process. If this design-code is analogous to a genetic code then it does not lie on the outward surface of a design. Instead it is almost invisible to unaided physical observation. And yet it is ultimately the very engine deep within the artifact or process. It is the exclusive, elusive thing that determines what we see — be it physical attributes or behavioral characteristics.
So, what is the "design-code?" This is the big question for me. My working theory is that this code is the designer's personal philosophy.
Is the design-code analogous to a genetic code — determining the outward characteristics of a design? Does it move like a genetic code from host to host, generation to generation, artifact to mind and mind to artifact? How do the evolutionary principles of mutation, fidelity, fecundity and fitness apply or work in this analogy?