On discovery and design

This is one of the straight-up best articulations of the role of design in society:

Humans did not discover fire — they designed it. The wheel was not something our ancestors merely stumbled over in a stroke of good luck; it, too, was designed. The habit of labeling significant human achievements as “ discoveries, ” rather than “ designs, ” discloses a critical bias in our Western tradition whereby observation dominates imagination. Absent from the conflicting descriptions of Leonardo da Vinci, as either scientist or artist, is the missing insight into his essential nature as a designer. His practical, purpose-driven and integrative approach to the world — an archetypal designer’s approach — is primarily what made him so distinct in his own time, as well as our own. Through his imaginative genius, augmentations to the real world were made manifest. This has been the contribution of all designers throughout human history. Outside of nature, they are the prime creators of our experienced reality.

The Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World (MIT Press) by Harold G. Nelson, Erik Stolterman

On a side-note, here are some quotes from different theorists through the years articulating the difference between science and design:

“The scientific method is a pattern of problem-solving behaviour employed in finding out the nature of what exists, whereas the design method is a pattern of behaviour employed in inventing things of value which do not yet exists. Science is analytic, design is constructive.” (Gregory, 1966)

Logic has interest in abstract forms. Science investigates extant forms. Design initiates novel forms (March, 1976)

Out of the specific possibilities of a concrete situation, the designer must conceive a design that will lead to this or that particular product… (The designer does not begin with) an undeterminate subject waiting to be made determinate. It is an indeterminate subject waiting to be made specific and concrete. (Buchanan, 1995)

“[Design is] a process of pattern-synthesis, when the solution is not simply ‘lying there in the data’ but has to be actively constructed by the designer’s own efforts.” (Cross, 2007)



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