The creative phases of design are based upon the human ability to conceptualise or abstract ideas from physical observations of the real world. That ability comes from experience, based on experiment: discerning patterns of behaviour in particular sets of observations. In this work it is shown that the process of identification, experiment and abstraction may be modelled accurately on a computer by definitive, or agent-oriented, programming, so forming a powerful aid to conceptual design.
A new computer modelling language, called EdenLisp, has been developed by the author around Definitive Notations and interfaced to a commercial Computer Aided Design package. It provides a tool whereby computer models of systems can be originated that have state and on which state change can be made, not only by the designer but also by other autonomous agents of change.
Experiments with the language are described that show that scripts of definitions can have characteristics that permit the design to proceed as if there were an engineering prototype of the physical system being designed. The explicit representation of state at the lowest levels permits experimentation, observation of properties and addition of further observations.
The interactive construction of EdenLisp is analogous to the conceptual design process. It is used to illustrate and test design meta-theories for modelling conceptual design. It is shown to have potential for concurrent or multi-agent design, and is also an excellent vehicle for design education.