Thinking about Design

Last week, I talked about wanting to theorize about the practice of design to two Art Studies professors in my university. This was during an interview for graduate studies admissions. They asked me why I was interested in the program and I went into a somewhat lengthy story explaining my thoughts about Industrial Design, my concern about the gaps in our knowledge of local design history, and what I deemed as a shift in contemporary design practice in the country, specifically through the works of local design firms/ groups that have cropped up in recent years, such as Curiosity and Habi. One point of interest has been the way they seem to veer away from object-based or campaign-based outputs into a focus on processes that engage with communities and stakeholders. For me, they seem to practice what Victor Papanek wrote way back in 1972, in his book Design for the Real World: of designers that are “generalists” and who bring together the different perspectives and skill sets of various stakeholders into coming up with a design solution. These solutions need not be objects, per se. They can be a different way of doing things, or even structures/processes that would, in turn, allow users to create adaptable and inclusive processes. This is in contrast to the more traditional role of designers who come into projects to create specific outputs such as chairs, tables, cars, and other consumer products.

Of course, these ideas on design, because they are preliminary, tend to be simplistic (and in my case, optimistic). Hopefully I can help craft a more nuanced view/ analysis of contemporary design practice in the coming years. In any case, I’ve started amassing readings on design theory from various sources as preparation.