From Form to Experience
C. Thomas Mitchell
New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997 (first
published 1992), 162 pages (softcover).
Redefining Designing: From Form to Experience offers a comprehensive
new theory of design in which user needs and wishes are central.
The book focuses on design viewed in terms of human experience,
rather than physical form.
Redefining Designing offers a highly critical study of design philosophies
that have emerged since industrialization: modernism, late-modernism,
postmodernism, and deconstruction. Mitchell points out how many
designs, particularly in architecture, fail to suit their intended purpose
-- not because of their style, but owing to the design process used itself.
He then reviews emerging user-responsive design methods -- approaches
which turn the design process "inside out" -- beginning with users and
working backwards to form.
Mitchell explores the concepts of collaborative, contextual, and
intangible design, and cites examples of each. Collaborative design
is the process by which designers and those affected by designing
become equal partners in design decision making. He illustrates this
approach with case studies of user involvement in environmental design,
including his own collaborative design work.
Contextual design he defines as the design of perceptual experiences,
citing the Italian design primario or soft design movement as representative
of this approach. Mitchell insists, however, that the contextual orientation
he describes is more fully realized in the arts. He cites the work of three artists
as principal case studies: Robert Wilson, an architecture graduate now
working in performance art; Bulgarian artist Christo, known for his
large scale temporary artworks, and British musician and artist Brian Eno,
who was interviewed by Mitchell on his diverse, perceptually oriented
work with music, video, and environmental installations.
Intangible design is defined as the design of experience itself in space and time,
particularly in application to new post-industrial design tasks, such as the
design of micro-chip based equipment, for which there is no precedent.
Mitchell reviews a range of emerging trends such as: humanware,
user centered system design, and transparency. A central feature of
this section is an interview with John Rheinfrank of Fitch Richardson Smith's
Exploratory Design Lab, on his group's philosophy and methods. The
EDL were recent winners of ID magazine's Best in Category award for research.
Mitchell's central conclusion in Redefining Designing is that both
the methods and the aims of design must change in order for designing
to become responsive to the needs and wishes of design users. He suggests
this is highly desirable in application to more traditional design tasks
such as architecture, and essential for newly emerging post-industrial design tasks.
Redefining Designing is a history and criticism of traditional design approaches,
a manifesto for more user oriented design, a compendium of post-industrial
design methods, and a survey of a broad range of emerging design approaches.
It is the synthesis of these ideas which makes it a unique and potentially
epoch setting book. Whether one agrees with all of Dr. Mitchell's
observations or not, Redefining Designing is essential reading for students
and professionals from the entire range of the design fields.
The book should also be of interest to anyone with an interest
in design issues, the social impact of technology, and related topics.
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Part 1: Design in Transition.
Design Philosophies Since Industrialization: Modernism;
Post-Modernism; Late-Modernism and Deconstruction;
The Second Modernity.
Design Research: Environment-Behavior Studies;
Design Methods; The Pattern Language;
Design as a Response to the Whole of Life.
From Product to Process Design.
Part 2: Design Turned Inside-Out.
Collaborative Environmental Design:
Defining Collaborative Design; Design Phenomena;
User Involvement in Architectural Design; Changing Roles, Changing Aims.
Contextual Design: Defining Contextual Design;
Robert Wilson's Non-Narrative Theater;
Christo's Projects; Brian Eno's Ambient Music, Video, and Installations;
From Form to Experience.
Intangible Design: Defining Intangible Design;
Transparency; Softecnica. Depending on Everyone.
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