But Keith, I thought indirection was the poetic and philosophical way? : ^) This is my tongue-in-cheek smilie.
Seriously though, I am committed to the view that if you try to "see" design/research/ the "new" or even creativity directly it will disappear. Like design and life itself it will be deferred (I had a hard time believing that we see only differences, but it starts to make sense after a while). Design, and consequently creativity in design will always be somewhere else, seen through something else, never to be seen for itself alone.
The rationality question depends on who you are talking to: many people will understand rationality to mean "just so" - meaning according to some rule, which almost automatically starts to exclude the possibility of connections, especially far-flung connections ("what has that to do with the price of eggs?" a student will wonder, and worse, not even voice this opposition). One of the most pernicious problems that students have to deal with is their inability to break from their own accepted paradigm-type thinking, and more mature students (masters, doctoral) can follow this same pattern, as do many of those who teach, and those who practice. I quite agree with you that a certain view of rationality is absolutely essential to creativity, but how any people do you know who practice "subjective rationality"? I'll bet quite a few.
You see, if I try to persuade some people of the truth of your lines, "... that metaphor is a fundamental feature of cognition, then we find ourselves looking at RATIOnality as a feature of creativity rather than as a feature of mechanical abstraction. Indeed, abstraction itself is a creative function of cognition and it represents the grounds of design," then half of them will switch off, a quarter will think I'm an idiot, an eighth will perhaps try to sort out the puzzle of this nonsensical stuff but give up in disgust or boredom, and perhaps the rest will try to understand what this means even if not in agreement at first. I find that not many people will listen to what you have to say unless there is something in it for them, or they think that they can benefit by being associated with the well-known speaker (accreditation-by-association). This is a problem that even research students have, being afraid of stepping outside the boundaries of "well-known" and "accredited" theories and paradigms of thought. This will eventually lead to knowledge atrophy - should we not be talking about this?
Artists do not seem to believe that rationality has anything to do with creativity (it stifles their muse), and the by-the-seat-of-my-pants designer will not either. Abstraction is not possible for anybody (although I can paradoxically say that absolutely everybody practices some form of daily abstraction, but in an implicit way - they are not aware of it).
No, I do not think that indirect questions are wrong or not quite right - the real reasons/causes/ inspirations for everything are always to be found not at the "logical" source, but at an oblique angle away from the "source" - for the simple reason that we have to go "through" other people to get to them.
Johann van der Merwe
Faculty of Art and Design, Port Elizabeth Technikon
P/Bag X6011 Port Elizabeth 6000
Phone +27 41 504 3682 Fax +27 41 504 3529