Lubomir Popov’s comment on dictionaries and the difference between defining words and defining terms make good sense. Even so, there is some value in reviewing the definitions available in dictionaries that serve scientific and scholarly purposes.
The Oxford English Dictionary permits us to examine the use and nuances of the word “design” as verb, noun, and compound noun. For each, it provides usage exemplars that shed light on how the word is used in many contexts.
Attached to this post is a .pdf transcript of the word “design” in the Oxford English Dictionary and in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary is the greatest and most authoritative dictionary of the English language. While it defines words in their largest and most general sense, it also offers the narrow definitions that scientists, scholars, and researchers require in specific contexts. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is the desk dictionary most widely used by editors at academic publishing firms, university presses, and journals. [See attachment.]
Lubomir is right to state that defining words is different from defining terms and concepts. There has been little of this work in the design fields and disciplines. From time to time, however, selected articles have offered useful analytical discussions on the meanings of the word “design,” defining the word and attempting to clarify concepts.
Unfortunately, these have been far outnumbered by confusing and opinionated articles, some quite silly. In my view, the very strangest was an attempt by a non-English scholar to analyse the word “design” in an article that pointed to the phrase “intelligent design” to claim that the word “design” has theological roots. For those who are not aware of the creationist debate, the term “intelligent design” is used by advocates of the religious doctrine known as creation science to argue for the account of creation that appears in Genesis 1:1-31 and 2:1-23. The doctrine of creation science posits the Genesis account against the theory of evolution, and the concept of intelligent design plays a part in the argument supporting the Genesis account. The article analysing the word design made the mistaken — and anachronistic — claim that the recent term “intelligent design” gave a theological meaning to the far earlier formation of the word “design.” While this article sticks in my mind as especially far-fetched, other articles put forward equally problematic assertions on the meaning, etymology, and history of the word and its use.
In my view, our field would benefit from a serious formal analysis of the word “design” with careful analytical notes and documented usage exemplars. That, in turn, would lead to the possibility of a formal terminology with related concepts of the kind that Lubomir advocates. The formal terminology would probably have limited uses, but these might inform better informed concepts and richer inquiry. Even so, as Thea Blacker noted, this won’t change the way that most people use the word “design.” The word is used in too many ways across different fields, disciplines, nations, cultures, and languages for a formal terminology to change broad usage. Even so, a formal analysis would be useful.
It would be a real service for someone to write an article of this kind.
Once again, if someone were to write such an article, She Ji would be eager to publish it.
Ken Friedman, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/ <http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/>
Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Email [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> | Academia http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman <http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman> | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn <http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn/>
Ken Friedman, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/
Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Email [log in to unmask] | Academia http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn
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