When asked to solve the exact same problem, multiple designers will each come up with individual approaches and designs. A completely systematic approach to design is a paradox.

Humans are very good at reading other humans intentions based on how something was made. A painting reveals the conflicts and intentions of its creator towards her or his fellow human beings, especially when they are painters themselves. Engineers sometimes suffer with abused technical equipment and they feel a certain aesthetics for a well designed and maintained technical system. Our ability to develop a sense for somebody else's perspective allows us to gain an understanding of a certain field or technique previously unknown to us.


For my design research I work with purposefully prepared design case studies so as to create a shared understanding between researcher and designer. Predefined materials provide a loose frame for individual design activity while greatly facilitating subsequent comparative analyses across different design sessions. Careful observation of sketching and gesture activity captures design activity at a great level of detail.

Graphical transcription of sketching and gesture

Field Work (2007 - 2013)

As a member of a research team with no professional training in design I analysed a total number of 22 interviews with architectural designers and urban planners. Our objective was to develop a thorough understanding of wayfinding design practice.

Design Competition (2011)

In order to engage architects in an academic research agenda through a comfortingly familiar modus operandi we lounched an open ideas competition with a particular user-centred focus. In the design brief we encouraged our entrants to create and justify their designs on empirical evidence on human spatial cognition and behaviour. On the flip side, the submitted schemes all address the exact same design requirements and, hence, are an excellent collection of cases for comparative studies.

Selected Publications

Brösamle, M. & Hölscher, C. (2018). Approaching the architectural native: a graphical transcription method to capture sketching and gesture activity. Design Studies, 56, 1-27.

Brösamle, M., Conroy Dalton, R., & Hölscher, C. (2014). From design cognition to evidence-based design: Addressing the cognition of users and architects alike. In M. Meboldt, S. Matthiesen, & P. Badke-Schaub (Eds.), International conference on human behavior in design (proceedings).

Dalton, R., Hoelscher, C., Holgate, P. and Brösamle, M. (2012). Subverting the architectural design competition. In: Theory by Design: Architectural Research made explicit in the design teaching studio, pp. 29-31. October 2012, Antwerp, Netherlands.

Brösamle, M. (2011). Architectural gestures: Conserving traces of design processes. In M. Bhatt, C. Hölscher, & T. F. Shipley (Eds.), Spatial cognition for architectural design – workshop proceedings, (p. 199). New York, USA.

Inverse Design Research

For the Art Dietzenbach New York '16, as an act of inverse research I projected the spatial analysis of the virtual fair space back into building-size reality.

Analysis of virtual fair space installed in building space.

Analysis of virtual fair space installed in building space.

Analysis of virtual fair space (model).

Analysis of virtual fair space (model).

ADNY '16 on Facebook.