An academic foundation for design and design as an academic foundation

Since I have lately been in contact with a couple of communities working innovatively with design, I realized that my work on academic foundations for design, which might be of shared interest, is not described on my home page. Here is a brief account.

In 2003 I participated in an online conference of the PhD Design community that discussed this question. The community seemed to agree that the foundations should be sought in the philosophical tradition, perhaps justifiably, because the over-all goal was to define the boundary conditions for the philosophy doctorate in design. In my contribution I submitted that while the traditional approaches to knowledge have foundation problems, which have been revealed by 20th century science,  those problems could be repaired by using design as approach.What I meant was that ambiguities and inconsistencies in traditional thought and language  may be avoided by using convention making or concept design.

So instead of using philosophy to construct a foundation for design, we may use design to construct a foundation for  philosophy! And then of course also broader…

An attractive side of this approach is that by designing our traditional concepts, we can not only give them precise meanings, but also adjust them to the exigencies of this post-traditional reality we are now living in. By designing a concept, we can give the concepts, and the thing or activity it represent, a more agile and timely purpose.

In my article and lecture “Design is the Alternative to Tradition” that was presented at the  2005 European Academy of Design’s conference in Bremmen, I proposed to apply this approach to design itself. The reviewer liked my proposal, and so did Lise Vejsø Klimt and Steinar Amland, leaders of Danish Designers, who invited me to give a  keynote speech on the 10th anniversary of their organization.

This proosal is elaborated in my book manuscript.


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