To Lubomir, Christena, Rosan et al
At a recent research symposium someone made the comment that design research needs commitment, but more than that it needs passion. My latest "passion" (which will not be of short duration since it is one more rediscovered piece of the puzzle) is the scholarship of social constructivism, with activity theory being one of the fields that designers may look at and learn from. And while I mention this topic, so is the field of systems thinking, cybernetics, action learning (which some say is activity theory), personal constructs (Kelly) etc. These are all fields in which the designer may find the whole human being discussed to some extent or another. The end destination of any design production is people, and design should look at all theories that truly discuss people as total units of understanding (especially those that acknowledge the unforseen human variables). I would say in the light of this rich prospect that there are no existential boundaries to design research, but only adaptations.
Christena is right in saying that thinking is behaviour, that action and reflection influence each other. We may, in context always, fathom the actions and intentions of other people by what they leave behind (a letter, a product, an effect on another person etc): these are the objectivations of human subjectivity (Berger and Luckmann from Schutz). Acting will reflect thinking and this should be studied for the effect and affect it will eventually have on the people (who also "think") who receive this mediated "thinking" in the form of deign production.
Rosan, T.A.F.B. can never be "one and the same thing" if only because people are contradictory creatures with social variables developing all the time (history). This has to do with your question 3. TAFB is D(esign), not T+A+F+B equals design as if some formula that can be repeated unproblematically. TAFB all rolled into one and letting new meaning emerge is what becomes design, in a particular context - the other one is rote learning and "objective" science (which many scientists refute: this may have been a malicious rumour spread by the philosophers of postmodernism :-)
2. Design should not be pinpointed (vasgestel meaning pinned down) on the continuum curve because it keeps moving. We only stop the movement for the sake of some form of practical closure or end result. You will not find the circumstances under which design can be said to be "at its zenith" because design is context dependent meaning dependent on people and what they want at any given time, what materials are available, what the market forces are etc. etc.
4. "... what can phd in design contribute in return?" My answer is that all good theories of management, of structure, of exploration, of research, these all operate as stripped down theories of design. With reference to Clive Dilnot's concern: we as designers may start to "colonize" the other disciplines instead of allowing their "alien" theories into design, simply because the best of what "they" use becomes recognisable as the best of design principles (cf. Glanville on this and more).
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