Foreword 0

“Issue nº 0 of “The ‘Radical’ Designist”, an on-line journal on Design Culture, consists of various contributions written by a group of friends associated to the project. It was first launched on the 14th of July of 2006.

When we asked for contributions for this issue, we had in mind a journal that could publish different kinds of papers focused on the subject ‘Design’, although, outside the well-grounded Design Research Areas.

During the 20th Century, a “Design Culture”, based on the globalisation and definition of the word as “Product-Design”, was established. This Culture could be found in Film, Comics, Literature, Philosophy, Sports, Theatre, Dance, Science, Pottery, Television Series, etc. For example, we may say that this culture is expressively documented in the MoMa gift-shop.

During the process of “designing” this journal, a research project presented for funding at FCT, about Drawing and the 20th Century Portuguese Visual Culture, was approved. Fortunately, this source of income will help maintain this journal ‘active’. In addition to this, another research project (which consists of studying the act/role/purpose of drawing in the Portuguese Visual Culture production, as well as in the rest of the world, with a special emphasis on the Portuguese-speaking countries) emerged.

Our project friends knew nothing about these final developments, however, they managed to construct a fairly exemplary issue, and by this, we hope to trigger further production in the future.

Rosan Chow’s paper replicates much of what she presented in the EAD Conference, giving special emphasis on the complex problems involved in accepting the global definitions of design and Design in place of the universal concept of Design.

Ranulph Glanville gives us an exemplary exercise of what we would like ThRAD to become. His study on Piaget underlines the utmost importance of the Swiss thinker in the construction of our contemporary worldviews on ideation and reasoning. It also provides us with an example of what a focused text is, in other words, one that doesn’t need extensive literature reviews in order to be worthy.

Ranulph also did us the favour of checking the annotated Inigo Jones’s copy of Palladio’s Treatise. These annotations reveal a lost verb and noun: “To designe” and “Designe”, also written as “to desine” and “Desine”, which refer to issues related to projectual drawing. This is conceptually problematic and will need further analytical developments. One must remember that Palladio uses the terms “disegnare” and “Disegno”. We decided to print this paper without any comments. We assume that these terms are useful and resourceful to those who are interested in identifying the origins of the word ‘Design’ related to the practical arts.

Thomas S. Rasmussen clearly exemplifies the kind of contributions that ThRAD welcomes, showing a commitment with what he likes to call the meta-questions in very few and expressive lines.

Luis Carmelo, a Portuguese writer and philosopher that studies film and semiotics, has started to ‘drive’ through the narrow paths of the Design Culture. His paper refers to the recent acquisitions of the meaning of ‘Design’ in, what we could call, the “French Philosophical Tradition”.

Almost at the end of this issue, Eduardo Côrte-Real, entangled between two traditions, has a chewed and re-chewed essay on how to make our ideas obscure.

Cameron Tonkinwise’s paper, a pretty analytical expression, considers man as an A-topian Prometheus; this is, as Polis in the new Cosmos.

This issue also includes other contributions, such as:

Richard Buchanan´s, Dennis Doordan´s and Victor Margolin´s paper that gives us an extensive and critical view, based on their own experience as editors, of one of the most important journals in this field: The plural Design Issues. Once again, recent history is too precious to be thrown over board. The plural approach is implicit, which means that some theories were acknowledged and others were not.

Twenty Two Years of Pluralistic Discourse

Richard Buchanan, Dennis Doordan,
Victor Margolin

Open PDF


Editing and producing Design Issues has been a deeply satisfying experience. Much of the satisfaction comes from watching the maturation of design discourse over the past two decades. Fundamental questions about the nature of design, designerly ways of knowing as well as acting, the role of designers, and the multiple ways through which design is woven into the very fabric of life in the modern world have been debated in the pages of the journal. Inherent in the challenge to fully recognize the complexity of design and render it legible and accessible to others is the necessity to position this recognition within a humanistic framework. Rather than posited as abstract universal entities adequately knowable in physiological and ergonomic terms, Design Issues has consistently argued the necessity to appreciate human beings as unique individuals and as communities sharing distinct forms of cultural, ethnic or other group identities and experiences.

No assessment of twenty-two years of design discourse can avoid the growing recognition and consideration of the effects of globalization. The phenomenon of globalization has provoked many cultural commentators to lament the loss of diversity due to the "commodification" and "homogenization" of experience in the contemporary world. Critics have pointed to the darker side of globalization: exploitation of labor, environmental degradation, and the rise of economic and political forces that seems to escape regulation and democratic control. While it would be naïve to deny the excesses of globalization, it would be a mistake to forget an essential truth that has animated everyone involved with Design Issues all these years. At its finest, design is an affirmation of life. To design — to create, to improve, to preserve, to care for the world and all its inhabitants — is an act grounded in a fundamental commitment to life and a belief in the importance of the future. Design Issues is committed to advancing design knowledge and promoting design discourse. This commitment, demonstrated page after page, issue after issue, volume after volume for twenty two years, to bringing pluralistic discussions of design history, theory and criticism together in one place (which, due to the enduring and globe-spanning power of the printed word, means this one place is literally everywhere) remains the bedrock upon which Design Issues is built.

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 01/10 | Past Radical Propositions

A New Thin Red Line World? Multivocality and Design

Clive Dilnot

Open PDF

I. The Question of Humanism
"Nine days before his death Immanuel Kant was visited by his physician. Old, ill, and nearly blind, he rose from his chair and stood trembling with weakness and muttering unintelligible words. Finally his faithful companion realized that he would not sit down again until the visitor had taken a seat. This he did, and Kant then permitted himself to be helped to his chair and, after regaining some of his strength, said … 'The sense of humanity has not yet left me.' The two men were moved almost to tears. For though the word Humanitat had come … to mean little more than politeness and civility, it had, for Kant, a much deeper significance, which the circumstances of the moment seemed to emphasize: man's proud and tragic consciousness of self-approved and self-imposed principles, contrasting with his utter subjection to illness, decay and all that is implied in the word 'mortality'." (<150)

There are a number of reasons to begin my talk with this quotation, which comes, as some of you, may recognize, from the opening paragraph of Erwin Panofsky's 1940 Princeton lecture, 'The History of Art as a Humanist Discipline.' Though the rest of Panofsky's talk does not, I think, live up to the aspirations of the title, this paragraph has always moved me, above all because of the poignancy of Kant's gesture. Kant's insistence, despite, or perhaps because of, his frailty, on enacting the values felt closest to him holds, I think, a significant lesson for design, and one that I'll come back to at the end of the talk. (>300)

But let's begin from this concept of humanitat, and why I might want to put it on the table today. It is of course difficult, today, for us to simply identify with Panofsky's proposition. Humanism is a concept that — rightly — has become deeply problematic for us...

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 02/10 | Past Radical Propositions

Shakespeare on Design

Eduardo Côrte-Real

Open PDF



by William Shakespeare

HELENA. Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven. The fated sky
Gives us free scope; only doth backward pull
Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.
What power is it which mounts my love so high,
That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye?
The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
To join like likes, and kiss like native things.
Impossible be strange attempts to those
That weigh their pains in sense, and do suppose
What hath been cannot be. Who ever strove
To show her merit that did miss her love?
The King's disease-my project may deceive me,
But my intents are fix'd, and will not leave me

SECOND LORD. O, for the love of laughter, hinder not the honour of    
his design; let him fetch off his drum in any hand.
BERTRAM. How now, monsieur! This drum sticks sorely in your disposition.
FIRST LORD. A pox on 't; let it go; 'tis but a drum.
PAROLLES. But a drum! Is't but a drum? A drum so lost! There was
excellent command: to charge in with our horse upon our own
wings, and to rend our own soldiers!

by William Shakespeare

ANTONY. May I never
To this good purpose, that so fairly shows,
Dream of impediment! Let me have thy hand.
Further this act of grace; and from this hour
The heart of brothers govern in our loves
And sway our great designs!

CAESAR. O Antony,
I have follow'd thee to this! But we do lance
Diseases in our bodies. I must perforce
Have shown to thee such a declining day
Or look on thine; we could not stall together
In the whole world. But yet let me lament...

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 03/10 | Past Radical Propositions

Evolution, Epigenesis and/or Recycling in Design Theorizing

Rosan Chow

Open PDF


When speaking of design theorizing, Jonas has noted that within our field of design research, ‘hardly anyone is looking for connectivity and possible links between different approaches’. This paper contributes to addressing this shortcoming.
I make reference to some recent literature on nature of design within the field and use this literature as a baseline to compare other ideas presented at the 6 th European Academy of Design Conference (EAD06). I examine to what extent the ideas are evolutionary, epigenetic and/or recycling. This paper is a commentary aimed to encourage connecting ideas and building a collective dialogue.

Design theorizing, Meta-discourse, EAD06

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 04/10 | Past Radical Propositions

Design and mentation: Piaget’s constant objects

Ranulph Glanville

Open PDF

Some years ago I wrote about (scientific) research and design: I argued that (scientific) research is a subset of design, and we should therefore not ask that design should be a subset of (scientific) research. Indeed, not only should we not ask it, it’s not possible (Glanville 1999).

In this brief piece I want to outline an argument concerning design and thinking, but not to argue it in detail. The central thesis is that design is the essential part of thinking: that is, thinking is a type of design activity. So it’s not just science and research that are design activities: to design is to be human, and vice versa! To construct this outline, I shall look at Piaget’s account of how babies learn to recognise their mothers, surely one of the primitive human acts of mentation. I use the somewhat awkward word mentation to reduce arguments about cognition and perception.

Before I undertake this, I should say a word or two about how I wish to talk about design: what I consider to be at the heart of that activity. For me there are many tasks the designer must undertake and somehow find a satisfactory response to. These include functionality and well-made-ness. But there is one activity which is particular and central to design, the activity by which we create form (truly, this is in-form-ation) and where we seek the distinctiveness, the novelty, that is essential to what we believe we do. This activity has traditionally been associated with sketching — and doodling. (I use the word doodle precisely because it has no pretence to special status: it’s a word that removes grand purpose, downplays an activity to the everyday, to the child-like: which is exactly what I consider this activity to be — purposeless, child-like and everyday.)...

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 05/10 | Past Radical Propositions

Anotations on Inigo’s copy of Palladio Treatise on Architecture “I Quattro Libri Della Architectura di Andrea Palladio”

Inigo Jones

Open PDF

p1) on 5th flysheet; "…as in the designe I have," (Vicenza, Monday 23.9.1613.)

p11) p43, bk1; "So that when you are to make duble pillors Desine them so as ye Abbacos maaye tuch it but not ye Plinth below."

p19) p4, bk2, in lower margin; "This Vissentin foot is more then Our Inglesh foot by 2 ynches or on 6 partt and the ynch more than our ynch by a 6 part, al the desine in this booke ar messured by this foot:".



ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 06/10 | Past Radical Propositions

Like Marilyn with Ulysses.

Thomas Rasmussen

Open PDF


It’s hard not to think about Marilyn Monroe. And when discussing design research, minds start wandering. To Marilyn, in movies and magazines. In fiction. To Marilyn singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy.


And minds wander to the famous photo of Marilyn, pictured outdoors with bare feet while she reads the last pages of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Joyce boasted that the novel contains so many riddles that it would keep professors busy for a hundred years arguing about what he meant. While history will prove him right, it will be a cold comfort. He died long before Norma Jean became Marilyn Monroe.

It is almost an impossible meeting. The meeting between an inaccessible intellectual fortresses and the starlet of the century. Marilyn should be stupid like a shoe. She should be shallow, the very symbol of shape and seduction. Design, actually...

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 07/10 | Past Radical Propositions

How to make our Ideas Obscure, in art & Design

Eduardo Côrte-Real

Open PDF

From the three conditions of clarity expressed by Charles Sanders Peirce in How to Make Our Ideas Clear; the paper proposes and provides guidelines for making ideas obscure in opposition to those conditions. From Peirces pragmatic proposals, the paper raises questions about Thought from the ethical point of view. Obscurity opposed to clarity is worked under an ironic approach. The reader will experience difficulties on deciding what the target for irony is.
Methodoxy and Designology are examples showing both its clarity and obscurity features.
The paper is divided in three main sections: Mystery, Multiplication and Fatal Truth.
Mystery refers to processes in which ideas are covered with a foggy veil that enhances their importance.
Multiplication refers to the possibility of growth of multiple obscure thought from an original thought and the confusion between the quality of sensibility and sensible qualities.
Fatal Truth refers to a possible dialogue between Peirce positions through. The Fixation of Belief” and Heideggers positions through Building Dwelling Thinking.
The paper concludes with an argument about authority as a quality of authors.

How to Make Our Ideas Obscure in Art Design Theory is a re composition of a paper published in January 2001 in Arq./A, Revista de Arquitectura e Arte, under the title: “Como tornar as Nossas Ideias Obscuras (em Arquitectura Arte e Ciencia). It is not a mere translation but a total rewriting exercise focusing on Art & Design Theory. The basic concepts on this paper where also broadcast through the discussion list: PhD Design List...

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 08/10 | Past Radical Propositions

Design do Design, uma Contribuição

Luís Carmelo

Open PDF


1 - Diferente do diferente, monadologia do quotidiano, atomização.
A contemporaneidade cumpriu a antiga profecia de G. Deleuze (já quase com quatro décadasi) segundo a qual os simulacros seriam “sistemas em que o diferente se refere ao diferente pela própria diferença”. Nestes sistemas não há fundamento, nem identidade prévia nem semelhança interior. Estaríamos num mundo composto por uma espécie de monadologia leibniziana, mas desprovido de um Deus que nos enunciasse o “melhor dos mundos”. Na nova teodiceia indiferente e laica, a matéria e a “notícias” (as meta-ocorrências) aparecem no mesmo plano e na mesma omniurbe global, sem que nos apercebamos tendencialmente das oscilações de valor. A gripe das aves, a guerra entre significados de imagens, uma famosa OPA ou um anúncio de Maradona aparecem nos ecrãs como peças individualizadas que criam sentido por si sós, sem contextos precisos e projectando no que resta da relação clássica emissor-auditórios “linhas de fuga” demasiado abertas.

Existe uma dimensão plástica curiosa nessa “banalidade” virtualizante, ou melhor, uma espécie de minimalismo “clean” que reflecte o estado activo de media res em que vivemos. Tudo está em curso em jeito de fluxo num grande espectáculo hiper-real (onde, por natureza, a antinomia real-ficcional perde sentido dia a dia). O registo baudrillardiano da América, que já havia remetido para uma tal “repetição sem sentido”, condiz com o novo parapeito metafórico (o oposto ao acontecimento irrepetível, próprio do rito religioso ou da ‘ir-reproductibilidade’). Tal como a notícia, o design dispõe-se neste estado estésico avassalador através da simplificação e do recurso a uma racionalidade comunicativa essencialista. Por essa via, a moldagem da matéria convoca o simulacro e sobrepõe, sempre que possível, a singularidade da “pureza emocional” a contextos particulares.

Estes factos também se estão a processar no mundo das redes (a “segunda natureza”, segundo Roy Ascott) onde sistemas complexos como a prototipagem rápida (RP) ou a litografia estereo tridimensional têm originado o fabrico de séries de produtos adaptados a necessidades individuais...

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 09/10 | Past Radical Propositions