Bjorn Franke

Design as Inquiry

Design as Inquiry: Prospects for a Material Philosophy
PhD Dissertation

For many, design is the production of useful artefacts. Designing can however also provide a basis for exploration, speculation or critique. This research project develops this conception further by providing a theoretical framework for conceiving designing and design objects as a mode of and media for philosophical inquiry. Design is thus regarded as a material philosophy that explores and reflects philosophical issues by situating them in the concrete and particular reality of human life rather than in a generalised and abstract realm.

Design objects are equipment and media that can be understood in terms of their contextual references and consequences as well as the way in which they mediate human action, thinking and existence, and thus in terms of the worlds that they open up. As media for reflection they allow one to gain an experiential understanding of these contexts and worlds. Design therefore relates to philosophy in terms of ethics and concepts; that is, in terms of exploring possibilities of existence and new forms of thinking.

Since design objects can create new experiences and interactions they can lead to new values and concepts. These objects can be used to reflect on philosopical issues and to thus see the world from a new perspective. They can make abstract ideas experienceable, as they materialise issues in concrete situations and thereby allow one to judge them in a real world context, including possible consequences.

Design as Inquiry: Prospects for a Material Philosophy

Images: Pioneer Plaque, designed by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, 1972.