Reading the original outline I realised that my definition so far left off a number of key points. So, tack this onto the end (it feels tacked on when you read the whole thing through, will have to edit them into something a little less jarring):
What about âpaper designsâ or other unrealized plans; does design actually require that something be created? The action of making the plan itself, is a form of design. The plan's job is to change its viewer's perception of their environment; to demonstrate a possible future course of action, or an idea to be integrated into the user's world-model.
There are likely other obvious objections to the formulation, but we will take it as a functional definition for now, and move on to considering the scope of design more directly. As may be understood from the previous discussion, design as formulated here is extremely broad, we use âdesignâ in its definition closest to âplanâ or âintentionâ. However, our primary research focus being on the practise of architectural design, we will tend to focus on those aspects of design related to the creation of built environments, with notes regarding differences for other design disciplines.
How does design, as practised by architects, graphic designers, chefs, industrial designers, furniture makers, visual artists and similar practises differ from the more general definition of design?
The traditional âdesignâ disciplines tend to focus on the creation of physical objects. They are focused on the creation of âformâ, and are thus âconcreteâ in their operation.
Non-traditional designers, such as actors, musicians, performance artists, politicians, and philosophers, tend to produce ephemeral or ideological âthingsâ to affect their audience. These âthingsâ are often rendered into physical form by recording or writing, but the form itself is not integral to the thing created. Whether a symphony is recorded on a compact disk or a computer file doesn't change the symphonic creation.
It would be overstating the issue to imagine that the split between the formal and the ephemeral designer are so broad as to constitute a different type of design. The choice of media for expression has many consequences, but every design will have both ephemeral and concrete aspects, the distinction is one of focus, not truly of type.
I have skirted the issue of âbetterâ and âgoodâ design in the previous discussion for good reason, but will here begin to address it. Again, we will precede from Kant, for simplicity's sake. Particularly, Kant's Categorical Imperative proposes that an action should be viewed according to whether the action, were its impact to be magnified across the entire society, would create the type of society that would be desirable to the members of the society. In short, actions which move to achieve your goals, and the broader goals of society, are âgoodâ, while those which would tend to produce an undesirable situation are âbadâ.
This formulation pushes the âmoral questionâ to what our goals should be, but while that is an interesting philosophical question, it lies outside of the scope of our discussion of design. Design is action taken to effect a change in the user's perception. The goal of the change doesn't alter the operation of the design process, design can as readily be bent to âevilâ ends as ârighteousâ ones, so while we may feel that our communities should be tight-knit and friendly, and wish to alter our user's perceptions to support that idea, the goal is just an goal within the process, it doesn't affect whether the design itself is well done or effective.
For our purposes, âgoodâ design is design which is effective in achieving its goals, whatever they may be.
Determining the ârightâ goals for design may be considered a different branch of the philosophy of design, âdesign moralityâ. Here we are interested in what may roughly be termed âdesign epistemologyâ, a study of how we understand and form models of our world. While a morally sound model for design is important, our focus here is on the way in which the moral goals are transformed into actions.
Similarly, we will not focus here on the practise and craft of design. We will not discuss ergonomics, economics, materials science, or office work-flow patterns, save as they alter the nature of the actions taken and their perception by the user. While craft is important, it is well covered in other texts.
Lastly on this topic, we are not here going to attempt a study of aesthetics. Aesthetics attempts to find a universally âgoodâ form of design. As we are proceeding from Kant, we can see that any attempt to find a universally âgoodâ form must reduce down to discovering artifacts of the human perceptual system. While this can be useful in informing the design process as part of our craft, it's extremely limited scope cannot hope to encompass the breadth of design.
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