Design Without Discipline

Jonathan Bremner, Paul A. Rodgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
421 Downloads (Pure)


Design again finds itself in the midst of a crisis from a number of different perspectives including professional, cultural, technological, and economic forces. The present crisis is not new, however. Almost 20 years ago design's crisis of identity was highlighted in Adam Richardson's paper entitled 'The Death of the Designer' where he reminded us that design's crisis had been around since the days of the Italian Radical Design Movement of the 1960s. Recently, it has been suggested that design is in crisis from a disciplinary perspective. It could be said that this state of crisis is not unique to design - most disciplines are in crisis at some point in their development. From a historical perspective, Dan Friedman, in his book 'Radical Modernism', argued that design is in crisis and is searching for a new sense of balance and vision in a period of historic transformation . Throughout Friedman's book he emphasizes the responsibility of designers to avoid overspecialization and to see their work as an important creative aspect of a larger cultural context. Moreover, recent evidence of design's methodological reinvention suggests that design as a discipline is in crisis . The robust debates around research methods and design, articulating often a number of territorial engagements, appear to have missed the general understanding within disciplinary scholarship that any discipline having robust discussions about research methods is a discipline in crisis.This point is also made by when he reminds us of the concerns every 40 years or so in design research . Cross points out the issues in the 1920s where the search focussed on developing scientific design products and then again in the 1960s when the concern shifted to finding a scientific design process. Perhaps it is no coincidence that we are now early in the 21st century experiencing another crisis about the development and usage of appropriate research methods in design. Richardson's essay published in this very journal almost 20 years ago proclaimed design ''is in a crisis of identity, purpose, responsibility, and meaning'' and ''the viability of the profession as it is currently practiced needs to be seriously considered, its boundaries examined, and its values reconsidered.' . This paper seeks to deal with the crisis of design as it wrangles with its disciplinary boundaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages10
JournalDesign Issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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