Abstract In this paper, a new experimental approach – computer simulation – is introduced for understanding design activities and for validating design theories. Following the generic framework of computer simulation, three main components in simulating design activities are introduced: mathematical model, simulation model, and statistical analysis. The mathematical model consists of the design governing equation and Environment-Based Design (EBD), based on which three routes are introduced to look for new design solutions: (1) formulating the design problem differently at the beginning of a design process may get quite different solutions, in which creative design could emerge; (2) extending designer’s knowledge and experience can help generate more candidate solutions, and so increasing the probability of generating a good concept; (3) changing the sequence of design problem decomposition may change product requirements, and thus change the generated design concepts. By viewing mesh generation algorithms as design agents, a computer simulation environment is used to study design activities. Statistical analysis is conducted to validate quantitatively the three routes to new design solutions. The results show that computer simulation is an effective approach to studying design activities.