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The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design

The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design

Mads Nygaard Folkmann
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design
    Book Description:

    In The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design, Mads Folkmann investigates design in both material and immaterial terms. Design objects, Folkmann argues, will always be dual phenomena -- material and immaterial, sensual and conceptual, actual and possible. Drawing on formal theories of aesthetics and the phenomenology of imagination, he seeks to answer fundamental questions about what design is and how it works that are often ignored in academic research. Folkmann considers three conditions in design: the possible, the aesthetic, and the imagination. Imagination is a central formative power behind the creation and the life of design objects; aesthetics describes the sensual, conceptual, and contextual codes through which design objects communicate; the concept of the possible -- the enabling of new uses, conceptions, and perceptions -- lies behind imagination and aesthetics. The possible, Folkmann argues, is contained as a structure of meaning within the objects of design, which act as part of our interface with the world. Taking a largely phenomenological perspective that reflects both continental and American pragmatist approaches, Folkmann also makes use of discourses that range from practice-focused accounts of design methodology to cultural studies. Throughout, he offers concrete examples to illustrate theoretical points. Folkmann's philosophically informed account shows design -- in all its manifestations, from physical products to principles of organization -- to be an essential medium for the articulation and transformation of culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31376-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    As professions go, design is relatively young. The practice of design predates professions. In fact, the practice of design—making things to serve a useful goal, making tools—predates the human race. Making tools is one of the attributes that made us human in the first place.

    Design, in the most generic sense of the word, began over 2.5 million years ago whenHomo habilismanufactured the first tools. We were designing well before we began to walk upright. Four hundred thousand years ago, we began to manufacture spears. By forty thousand years ago, we had moved up to specialized...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    What makes a design possible?This sentence can be interpreted in more than one way. It can mean, What factors make the design possible? That is, what conditions enable the possibility of the design? Or, if we rephrase the question and see the design as the subject of the sentence—A design makeswhatpossible?—it can mean, Whatdoesthe design make possible? That is, what possibilities are created or achieved by the design? To illustrate, the famous Panton chair (1960, figure 1.1), made as a single form of injection-molded plastic by Verner Panton, is both the result of...

  6. 2 Design and Possibility
    (pp. 13-24)

    To conceive design as a medium that enables and contains the possible touches on our understanding of design, how it is conceived as a discipline, and what we understand design to mean. It focuses on design as a dually constituted phenomenon of material extension and immaterial meaning, sensuous appeal and conceptual structure, and a here-and-now presence of the given and actual that at the same time is open to the new and the possible. As an introduction to this understanding of design, this chapter describes my understanding of possibility in relation to design. As I see it, possibility is not...

  7. 3 Aesthetics
    (pp. 25-66)

    Aesthetics is a fundamental issue for design. In this chapter, I focus on the operations of aesthetics in design and the formative structures of meaning in design. The chapter can be read independently as an introduction to the little-described field of design and aesthetics,¹ but in a wider context, a discussion of aesthetics in design can also lay the foundation for conceptualizing the element of imagination in design.

    Central to my argument regarding design as a medium of meaning and imagination as a means of producing and enabling meaning is the connection between the sensual and the conceptual. This can...

  8. 4 Imagination
    (pp. 67-80)

    In this chapter, I introduce the general concept of imagination. I focus primarily on the historic idea of imagination but also extract elements from the tradition that can be made relevant for a generic reflection on design.

    As a basic premise, imagination is vital in design, as it is in all human thinking and creation. When we imagine, we obtain a visually oriented abstraction that can take us in new directions and lead us to examine new possibilities. Consequently imagination is a general human capacity; without it, we would have only “dull materiality,” to use the words of the French...

  9. 5 A Phenomenology of Imagination in Design
    (pp. 81-94)

    In the previous chapter, I described basic aspects of the structure of imagination under the topics of internalization-externalization, fullness-emptiness, enthusiasm-reflection, and immanence-transcendence.

    In this chapter, I develop a concept of imagination that is able to enter into a dialogue with the processes, workings, and operations of design. This conceptual framework can be labeled aphenomenology of imagination in design. Its structure relates to the concept of aesthetics presented in chapter 3 and points forward to the rest of the book. Accordingly, I describe it in terms of its sensually, conceptually, and contextually oriented impact:

    The sensual base of the imagination...

  10. 6 Imagination and Design Epistemology
    (pp. 95-104)

    The first step of dealing with imagination in design is to focus on the internal process of imagining as a central part of design practice. Thus, imagination relates to cognition and the often experiential knowledge in design. In essence, the questions can be asked as to how designers imagine when they design, how we can detect imagination in design and design processes, and what the mental setting of designers is toward the design tasks they address as they devise concrete, creative solutions to often ill-defined problems.¹

    In the next chapter, I introduce the concept of schematization as an entry into...

  11. 7 Schematization
    (pp. 105-138)

    In this chapter, I propose a structural approach for understanding an important part of creative processes in design: human imagination. I introduce the concept of schematization as a model of the cognitive framing of reality and thus as a means of enabling the conceptualization of the otherwise volatile imagination and its coding role in design. At its starting point, schematization describes an exchange of conceptual meaning and sensual material. Next, I present a series of dichotomies that are formative in the development of design and describe this as a prism for some of the central characteristics of the operation of...

  12. 8 The Imaginary in Design
    (pp. 139-152)

    I now turn to the objects of design as containers for meaning. Taking up the line of reflection in chapter 5, the argument of this chapter is that the imaginary is a productive category for conceptualizing the creation and circulation of meaning in and through designed objects. Through this entry into the discussion of meaning in design, the prevalent materiality of objects can be questioned and opened to a dimension of the possible that is attached to the imaginary. Formed on the basis of an act of negation, the imaginary is at a distance from the present, the actual, and...

  13. 9 Symbolism
    (pp. 153-184)

    In this chapter, I turn to the background of the concept of the imaginary and discuss materiality and immateriality in design. A key concept in relation to this discussion is the symbolic, a term that is equally laden with imprecision and broad implications. With the termsymbolic meaning,I refer to the aspects of meaning that transcend purely functional, denotative elements of design and thus open the space of meaning in design. This must be guided by an awareness that the functional and the symbolic in design are not easily separated and that the symbolic-communicative aspects of design can consciously...

  14. 10 Transfiguration
    (pp. 185-216)

    In this chapter, I enter the discussion of how design affects and transforms experience. On the contextual level of implication, this is a discussion from the starting point of the kind of aestheticization where design operates as entry points for our ways of accessing the world and on a large scale creates new schemata for perceiving and understanding the surroundings.

    As artificial constructs of human beings, design objects and solutions can serve the purpose of realizing a stated goal, for example, of improving existing conditions in the directions of preferred ones, to paraphrase Herbert Simon’s dictum of design.¹ Thus, on...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 217-222)

    A central claim for this book is that design is essentially a matter of framing and structuring human experience or that it has the potential to do so. The world is not all design, but many of its artificial creations, often unnoticed as such, are the result of design choices. However, in structuring a variety of objects and solutions and in providing principles for planning, organization, and systemic integration, design is a pervasive part of contemporary culture, and we need to grasp and comprehend its complex framing of meaning in relation to experience.

    In this book, my aim has been...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 223-248)
  17. References
    (pp. 249-264)
  18. Index
    (pp. 265-270)