Declaration by Design: Rhetoric, Argument, and Demonstration in Design Practice Author(s): Richard Buchanan Source: Design Issues, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring, 1985), pp. 4-22 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1511524 Accessed: 21/02/2009 09:12Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=mitpress. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Design Issues.
Richard BuchananDeclaration by Design: Rhetoric, Argument, and Demonstration in Design Practice
is 1)"Communication" an ambiguous word often used casuallyand without to regard its manyusefulandsometimes This meanings. essay,is conconflicting as cernedwith communication rhetoric, of relation the inventiveandpersuasive speakers and audiences as they are broughttogetherin speechesor other This is in objects of communication. sharpcontrast,for example,to recent semiotic theories of communication, which are essentially grammatical with a systemof natconcerned theories uralor conventional signsandthemeaningsstoredin them.It is alsoin contrast theories to Marxistor other dialectical as communication significant thatregard only in relationto some economicor truth. spiritual Communica2) Gui Bonsiepe,"Persuasive tion: Towardsa Visual Rhetoric,"in Theo Crosby, ed., Uppercase (Lon5, don:Whitefriars Press,Ltd., 1963).Gui Bonsiepe, "Visual/VerbalRhetoric," Ulm 14/15/16(1965).Thesearevaluable early explorationsof the theme, but more stronglyinfluencedby semiotics See thanrhetoric. alsoMartin Krampen, "Signsand Symbolsin GraphicCommunication," Design Quarterly 62
Introduction If one ideacouldbe foundcentral designstudies,it most likely in would be communication.1 this Directlyor indirectly, ideaandits more discussionof designtheory relatedthemeshave animated and practicethan any other. I refernot only to graphicdesign, is wherecommunication an obviousgoal andwherethe concepts withpromising of classical rhetoric now beingapplied are results,2 but alsoto the larger fieldof design,whichrangesfromindustrial and and productdesign to architecture urbanplanningand for which there is no unifyingtheory of rhetoric.Althoughnot so obviousat firstglance,the themesof communication rhetoric and of in this largerfield exertstronginfluenceon our understanding the all objects made for human use. Consider, for example,numerous historical, sociological, esthetic, and cultural studies of design in recent decades: they are not obviously rhetorical, yet when dealing with the influence of designers and the effects of design on an audience of consumers or society at large,3 move deeply into the domain of rhetoric. Similarly, these studies also involve a significant rhetorical component when they are concerned with the process of conceiving designs; the influence of a designer's personal attitudes, values, or design philosophy;4 or the way the social world of design organization, management, and corporate policy shapes a design.5 In addition, when studies of the esthetics of design treat form not only as a quality valuable in itself, but also as a means of pleasing, instructing, and passing information,6 or, indeed, as a means of shaping the appearanceof objects for whatever intended effect,7 these studies are rhetorical also because they treat design as a mediating agency of influence between designers and their intended audience. Ironically, a unifying theory of rhetoric remains surprisingly unexplored and, at the same time, most needed in the larger field of design, where communication is at least as significant as in graphic design. It is needed, first, because of the growing importance of technology in the twentieth century and the increasing distance between technologists and designers.8 There is a general attitude that technology is only an applied science, rather than a part of design art, and this approachhas led many to abandon hope
(1968): 3-31. An entire issue of Icographic,edited by Victor Margolin,is Comdevotedto the theme"Persuasive 11/4 See munication." Icographic (February1984).SeealsoHannoH. J. Ehses, in A Macbeth: CaseStudy "Representing Visual Rhetoric," Design Issues I/1 53-63.Thisis a usefulcase 1984): (Spring in communistudyof invention graphic of to it cation,although is limited figuresspeech and the grammaticalviewpoint of semiotics.
M. 3) Jonathan Woodham,TheIndustrialDesigner and the Public (London: Pem-
Press,1983). bridge4) Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of the Modem Movement, from William Morris to Walter Gropius (London: Faber and
the Faber,1936).See,forexample, chapof teron "TheEngineers theNineteenth This book was subsequently Century."
published as Pioneers of Modern Design.
Form and 5) JohnF. Pile,Design:Purpose, (New York:W.W.Nortonand Meaning Company,1979).JohnHeskett,IndustrialDesign(London: Thames Hudand son, 1980). 5, 6) Pile,Design.Seechapter "CommuniForm." cationthrough 7) DavidPye, TheNatureandAesthetics of Design (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold,1978). Pye definesdesignas the artthat "chooses thatthe thingswe useshalllook astheydo..." (p. 11).This is especially whenseenin the interesting contextof the long tradition rhetoric of as an artof appearances. Inevitably, Pye has committedhimselfto settingforth rhetoricalcriteriafor good or proper appearance, involving taste, style, beauty,utility,andso forth. 8) The education of designers and technologiststoday often deepensthe division. More effort is needed to develop an integratedphilosophy of suitedto the complex designeducation roleof designin the modern world.See, for example,TomasMaldonado, "Deand sign Education SocialResponsibilof ity,"in GyorgyKepes,ed., Education Vision (New York: George Braziller, 1965). See also Kenneth Frampton, and Ulm:Curriculum Critical "Apropos 3 Theory,"Oppositions(May1974). 9) Pile,Design,2.
10) Such criticism is, of course, better in but developed architecture, too often in of lacking otherareas design practice.
theories oftenregard com11)Grammatical munication the transfer a stateof as of mindfromthespeaker theaudience to a passingof information emotion. and However, rhetoricaltheories tend to communication aninvention as of regard arguments(logical, ethical, or emotional)thatinducebeliefor identification in an audience. difference seem The may slight, but the consequencesof each are different. approach significantly
thattechnologycanbe seriouslyinfluenced guidedby human and of endsin the humancommuvaluesanda discernment beneficial in theoryof rhetoric designwouldbe one in which nity.A suitable is viewed fundamentally a rhetoricalproblem, as technology withinthe perspective a broader of designart,however integrated The radical mayseemto technologists. theorywould suggest that betweentechnology waysin whichcloserconnections productive anddesignartcouldbe established. as As important this is, however,thereis a secondreasonwhy a in theoryof rhetoric designis neededatthistime.Theclassicconof designhavebeenabandoned recentlyby manydesigners cepts or in favorof unruly,antagonistic, conbizarre, ofteninexplicable and public,as well as the ceptsthatchallenge confusethe general field of design. Examples fashions,Memmightinclude"punk" of Arquitectonica or the architectural in designs phis furniture, that Miami.In almosteveryareaof design,we encounter objects have a strangeand startlingunfamiliarity may provoke or that evenrepelus. Althoughsuchreactions maysuggestthatthepublic lackscriticalawareness aboutthe natureof design,they alsoindicatea newweakness designcommunication. in JohnPilecontends that many people will accept any product simply becauseit is offeredas the fruitof technological advance,whetheror not it is well designed.9 therearealsomanywho careabout Nevertheless, theproducts surround that themandwho arethoughtful aboutthe influenceand the power of objectsto enrichor impoverishthe quality of their lives. For these people, the acceptedforms of down or designdesigncommunication seemto be breaking may ers may seem to have little interestin seriouslycommunicating with the public. A suitabletheory would be one in which the as it puzzlingdiversityof designcommunication we encounter in is mademore intelligible,providingthe basis everydayproducts for betterpubliccriticism evaluation design.10 and of Theneedfor a broadtheoryof rhetoric designwaslessurgent in whentechnologyseemedto be underrational controlanddesigners worked within a generallyacceptedview of the way design shouldfunctionin a well-ordered society.Butnow, astechnology becomesincreasingly and fromdesignpractice specialized isolated andas designers haveso manyconflicting confusingopinions and abouttheirown practice,the need has specialurgency.To bring these problemstogetherin a single, comprehensive theory is a difficultchallenge, one thatexplains but b