Sponsored links

Do we need theory in design? Thinking from Ken Friedman’s paper

Design study

Do we need theory in design?

The question itself is very controversial.

Some designers and design researchers will tell you that design doesn’t need theory. Design is a sensibility, an art, and experience is important.

Design scholar Ken Friedman actually said this.

Some designers assert that theory-based design, with its emphasis on pro-found knowledge and intellectual achievement, robs design of its artistic depth.(Friedman(2003))

Of course, design must have some artistic depth. Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari makes a distinction between art and design in his book “The Artist and the Designer”, but the two are always compared and often confused in some cases. Sometimes, because of its approximacy, only the artistic aspects of design are emphasized, and such a claim can be reached. This is where people’s opinions are really divided.


Sponsored links

What is theory?

In the first place, what is a theory? This question alone goes very deep, so I’ll limit myself to a very brief quote here.

In its most basic form, a theory is a model. It is an illustration describing how something works by showing its elements in relationship to one another.(Friedman(2003))

The most important thing about theory is that it is a model.

It is a description and illustration of how the different elements relate to each other.

This is something that is taken for granted in the social and natural sciences.

However, in the field of design, Friedman himself recognized that the study of “design theory” was still in a state of need of development, and pointed out the importance of its development.

It’s easy to imagine that the background has a lot to do with the ideas, background and history of design that we’ve seen earlier.

Why do we need  design theory?

Ken Friedman, while acknowledging that aspect of design, said

“My view is that art and science both contribute to design.” (Ken Friedman(2003))

Also, the following point neatly expresses the need for design theory.

Theory-rich design can be playful as well as disciplined. Theory-based design can be as playful and artistic as craft-based design, but only theory-based design is suited to the large-scale social and economic needs of the industrial age. (Friedman(2003)).

Ken Friedman teaches us that the development and advancement of design theory is important if design is to contribute more and more to social and economic needs.

Ciao, grazie!

Friedman K. (2002), “Theory construction in design research”, in Common Ground, J. Shackleton and D. Durling, Eds., Staffordshire University Press, Stoke-on- Trent, pp. 388-413


Copied title and URL