Thinking about Design: An Historical Perspective

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The philosophical roots of design may be traced to the Renaissance and the work of individuals such as Pico della Mirandola, Francis Bacon, and Galileo Galilei. Design emerged in the twentieth century with two methods of practice. The first was the craft method, based on traditional practices of trial and error in the making of artifacts and the gradual evolution of product forms adapted to particular circumstances. This was an experimental method, first embedded in craftwork as a whole and then gradually separated from machine manufacture because of industrialization. Designing prototypes, with anticipation of their eventual manufacture by machine methods, provided a way of exploring the forms and materials as well as the parts and wholes of products. The second method of design focused on drawing and draftsmanship. In this method, the designer sketches possible product forms that satisfy the needs of manufacturers and the marketplace and then develops detailed scale drawings that can be used as instructions or specifications to guide manufacture and construction.




Buchanan, R. (2009). Thinking about Design: An Historical Perspective. In Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences (pp. 409–453). Elsevier.

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