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Subject:

core books

From:

Victor Margolin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Victor Margolin <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 6 Sep 2000 17:36:37 -0500 (CDT)

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Dear colleagues:
I would like to follow up Dick Buchanan's remarks about a set of core
readings for a PhD program in design. I like the idea very much but I
believe the issue is more complicated than simply selecting a few books.
First, I would like to make a distinction between core readings in the
field of design and core readings for good intellectual citizenship, as Ken
Friedman notes. I think it particularly important to think about core
readings in design if we are going to talk about a field of design studies.
I would be happy to talk about design studies rather than design and think
of it as a broadly constituted field with many subfields. Thus, design
studies would have clusters of core readings in many of its subfields. I
would also like to bring up the issue of what to do with important books
from the past. Does one consider them to be part of the core readings in
design history as a subfield or are they books that explain design in some
particularly powerful way such that they cut across subfields. I think both
categories are possible. For example, I believe that Pevsner's Pioneers of
Modern Design is an important book for design historians but is dated such
that its argument is of less interest and value to the field as a whole. On
the other hand, Gideion's Mechanization Takes Command is a book that raises
issues that are still of great value and significance today and I would
consider it to be a core book.
	Among the sub-fields of design studies that I see are design
history, design thinking, ecodesign, design management, artificial
intelligence and design. I am sure there are others. Each of these
sub-fields no doubt has important texts that are central to those engaged
with it. I thus envision clusters of core texts. In a doctoral program, one
should expect a doctoral student to be familiar with the core texts in most
of these subfields. In fact, a doctoral program could offer a design
studies component that would include courses in ecodesign, design history,
etc. This would make the curriculum look something like the curriculum in
anthropology, art history, history etc. I do agree with Dick Buchanan that
every doctoral program (and MA program too) in design, whether or not it is
practice-based, should have a design studies component. As Dick notes,
there is also room for specialized PhD programs in design studies. Someone
with such a degree would have written a dissertation in one of the design
studies sub-fields and would have an extensive familiarity with the
literature in the entire field. There might also be specialized PhDs in
design history or AI, cognition, and design (as there is already at the
University of Sydney).
	Regarding the texts in my essay, "Postwar Design Literature: A
Preliminary Mapping," Ken Friedman is right. Many of them would not
constitute core texts for a doctoral program. Like Pevsner's Pioneers, they
have historical value but do not transcend their moment to become core
design studies texts. However, some that I believe do include:
Moholy-Nagy's Vision in Motion (1947)
Gyorgy Kepes Language of Vision
Gyorgy Kepes 6 volume Vision and Value series
George Nelson. Problems of Design and George Nelson on Design
One of Buckminster Fuller's books. I don't know which is best
Ivan Illich. Tools for Conviviality
(I would not include Papanek's Design for the Real World, which is quite
dated now) Though I would add another book by Papanek, perhaps Design for
Human Scale
Martin Krampen, Design and Planning, 2 v.
writings in German by Gert Selle
Karl Gerstner and Markus Kutter, Die Neue Graphik
 Gerstner. Designing Programmes
Gerstner. compendium for Literates
Muller Brockmann. The Graphic Artist and His Design Problems
Books on typography by Armin Hoffman, Emil Ruder, Manfred Meier
The Black Papers on Design: Selected Writings of Mischa Black
Design by Choice, a collection of Reyner Banham's writings
Some writings of Bruce Archer
Chris jones, Design Methods
some books by Nigel Cross
David Pye. The Nature and Aesthetics of Design
books in Italian by Gillo Dorfles
Tomas Maldonado, Design, Nature, and Revolution
Andrea Branzi.the Hot House
the work in French of Gilbert Simondon (cited by all authors who write
about design in French)
Jean Baudrillard. The System of Objects
Czikszentmihalyi and Rochberg Halton. The Meaning of Things
writings in English by Kenji Ekuan
books and articles by Gui Bonsiepe
Herbert Simon.The Sciences of the Artificial
A book by Wilhelm Flusser

The question of what belongs to design studies and what belongs to related
literature should also be addressed. Since designers take knowledge and
information from many different fields, we might think about texts in
related fields that would be essential to any designer.Related fields
include technology studies, material culture, engineering and architecture,
urban planning, sociology, philosophy.

For me, the purpose of reading many of the above is core texts is that they
raise issues about design and design studies. We should move away from the
narrow pragmatic approach to reading that one hears about often; i.e. how
will this book help me design? Like any field, design studies is textured
and nuanced and the issues are not simply spelled out in lists. To become
aware of the issues in all their subtleties, one needs to read widely and
engage with writers who have grappled with design themes. From that wide
reading, one forms one's own sensibility as a design thinker. Well, this is
enough for openers. I guess my inclination to write something has been
building up as I have read all the other posts over the last couple of
months.
Victor Margolin
University of Illinois, Chicago




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