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Defining Design. Andrea Peach Stage 1 Contextual & Critical Studies. Definitions of Design. The meaning of the word “design” is much contested. … as is … the definition of “designer”. Design The shorter Oxford English dictionary. v. to mark out; to plan, purpose, intend …

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Defining Design

Andrea Peach

Stage 1

Contextual & Critical Studies


Definitions of Design

The meaning of the word “design” is much contested

… as is … the definition of “designer”



The shorter Oxford English dictionary

v. to mark out; to plan, purpose, intend …

n. a plan conceived in the mind, of something to be done …

n. adaptation of means to end …



Renaissance = drawing

Alec Issigonis Morris Minor 1000 - 1962

19th century design replaced with industrial art decorative art or applied art
19th Century ’Design’replaced with ‘industrial art’ ‘decorative art’ or ‘applied art’

South Kensington Museum 1864

20th century design re established
20th Century‘Design’ re-established

Norman Bel Geddes - ‘Futurama’ 1939 World’s Fair


Horatio Greenough

American Sculptor 1739

Form follows function …

Louis Sullivan

American Architect 1896

Form and function are one …


David Pye

The Nature of Design 1964

The art of design, which chooses that the things we use shall look as they do, has a very much wider and more sustained impact than any other art. Everyone is exposed to it all day long. Indeed, in towns there is hardly anything in sight except what has been designed. The man-made world, our environment, is a work of art, all of it, every bit of it. But not all good.’


David Pye

The Nature of Design 1964

6 Requirements of Design:

1.It must correctly embody the essential principle of arrangement

2.The components of the device must be geometrically related

3.The components must be strong enough to transmit and resist process as the intended


David Pye

The Nature of Design 1964

6 Requirements of Design:

4.Access must to provided (as relates to 2)

5.The cost of the result must be acceptable

6. The appearance must be acceptable


Victor Papanek

Design for the Real World 1970 (1995)

“Design is the conscious and intuitive effort to impose meaningful order”


Victor Papanek

Design for the Real World 1970 (1995)

All men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all human activity. The planning and patterning of any act toward a desired, foreseeable end constitutes the design process. Any attempt to separate design to make it a thing by itself, works counter to the fact that design is the primary underlying matrix of life.


Design has become a range of goods, services, shaped by the intervention of ‘the designer’

no longer refers to ordinary objects


Pierre Bourdieu

Distinction - A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste 1984

Cultural Capital:

The ability to make distinctions between “cultivated” and “vulgar” taste.


Ron Arad

Fantastic Plastic Elastic 1997



Penny Sparke

Design Pioneers of the 20th Century - 1998


Definitions of Design

Meanings of design are many and shift according to the context in which the word is used


Guy Julier

The Culture of Design - 2000

Design is Interdisciplinary

Designers work with: product managers, researchers, marketing specialists, advertising agents, public relations consultants

Traditional demarcations between disciplines (graphic, product, interior) have blurred


Mike Press

The Design Experience 2003

Designer as Cultural Intermediary:

“A designer makes their own definition of what it is to be a designer and how to use distinctive skills, knowledge and thinking of design to find a place in the world. This is particularly true in today’s age of the knowledge economy.”


Definitions of Design

The meaning of the word “design” is much contested

… as is … the definition of “designer”


Hella Jongerius


a conversation that might have taken place…

Louise: How wide is the scope of design, actually? Does design count for something in society or does it operate only on the fringes of the cultural landscape?


Hella Jongerius


Hella: It has to be about something. Commitment is crucial. Mass-production industry has been ruining the market with superfluous design products for far too long. I think designers have a role in this respect. We can do more than supply industry with original ideas; we could have a wider social responsibility


Hella Jongerius


Hella: Designers have played a considerable part in creating the consumer society, so it would do us credit to instigate a new, more caring way of thinking about products.


Andrea Möller

Droog Design

‘Bolle Box’ 1994


Marti Guixé

Droog Design

‘Oranienbaum candy’



Don’t forget to download Worksheet 1 from:

Scroll down to:

Contextual and Critical Studies / Support Files

CCS BA Stage 1 Critical Notebook Worksheet 1