Self-referential design to me is when the thing designed knows its own design. It can reflectively look at its own design and on the basis of that perhaps reconfigure itself or take other actions based on its self knowledge of its own design. I call this the Designed Object in my dissertation called Emergent Design which distinguishes the object of design from the designed object. when the two are the same I call that the Designed Object. It is an object which is designed and knows its own design and can use that knowledge about itself to perform some Self-* or Autonomic functions. See http://emergentdesign.net
Quora answer: What is self-referential design?