triad of
POSITIONING

This triad is the scaffold upon which work can be built, for students often wonder how and where to begin. A student has to be able to position their work historically (in relation to prior work or precedents, as well as those emerging), theoretically (apply relevant principles that can influence the design or composition) and philosophically (imagine, articulate and poetically debate the purpose of the work).

HISTORY sounds out designers to gaps in the field and draws their attention to potential areas of focus. Understanding of the etymology30 of the term design, the origins of the activity and the profession, is a pre-requisite for any student of design.

THEORY helps the student ground31 their project and answers crucial questions of how the world (in this case their design) works and why. Theory helps explain things, aids in decision making and can significantly influence the design of artefacts. The dialogue between theory and practice is essential as it instils much faith in the student, in their owncapacity to make judgements, by seeing firsthand the outcome of their decisions.

PHILOSOPHY brings to the fore existential questions on why the artefact should exist in the first place and what are the consequences of its existence in the world. What guides our actions and defines them as right or wrong? Can design be good or bad? Philosophy requires the student to pause and dwell upon fundamental questions that concern design.

  1. read Eduardo Côrte-Real in The Word “Design”: Early Modern English Dictionaries and Literature on Design, 1604 - 1837 (2010).
  2. read David A. Whetten in What Constitutes a Theoretical Contribution (1989).