Exploring Universal Parameters and Principles in Design (2011-2014)

Abstract: This research is conducted under the belief that there is a deep connection between the human capacities of language and design. This view is founded on Prof. Andy Dong's (Sydney University, NSW, Australia) work on the performativity of the language of design and is grounded further empirically by the extensive and essential use of language in the processes of designing and theoretically by the 'reality-producing' (Lacan, Austin, Butler) nature of both language and design.

This research will offer a synthesis of a handful of fields in order to construct, by transforming linguistic information into design knowledge, a unique point of view about designing as activity and as practice.

Focusing on the possibility of a discrete combinatorial system (i.e. grammar) universal to the activity of design, this research will make a careful observation into specific features of the relationship between language and design. Through this, different models of what is happening will be constructed in an attempt to account for the nature of this relationship and its dynamics. Finally it is the intention of this research to find out where these models can usefully be called into play and where they seem to provide genuine understanding of the processing they model.
The Language of Design 2009 Approaching Language and Design:

This research is rooted in Prof. Andi Dong's work as presented in his book 'The Language of Design' (2009). Dong maintains that "language use in design is the designing and not an approximation to the 'reality' of designing" (p. 38). And that the language of design, i.e., the discourse on/about the creation of material artifacts, "is performative, enacting and producing what it names. Performative as the becoming of language into a designed work, a thing something other than itself" (p. 170).

The studies presented in the book deal not only with the question of how the language of design constitutes an account of designing and the designed work but also how this 'language' harnesses and represents that which can be conversed and said, thereby becoming an act of designing and realizing the designed work. "Language is therefore more than standing in for a design concept when no other representation yet exists, more than a pointer to places in the mind to assist in constructing a memory about a design concept, more than a historical account"(p. 15).

The interest of Prof. Dong's focuses on the abstract universal processes that the language of design performs rather than the linguistic system or cognitive structure that produces the language, like in semiotics. Towards the end of his book, However, Prof. Dong directs his attention to the possibilities by which the connection between
language and design is more than conceptual and argues that "the creation of symbolic (language) and material (design) artifacts may likely be part of genetic traits supporting a set of semiotic abilities non-specific to language"(p. 175).

Dong then reviews the related ongoing debate between linguist nativists (represented by Chomsky, Pinker) and empiricists (represented by Sampson) about the nature of the human cognitive capacity of language. Dong briefly points to Pinker's concept of "Mentalese" that proposes a strong link between the structure of language and the structure of thought, and correlates with his thoughts about "a set of semiotic abilities non-specific to language".

Prof. Dong eventually argues that the cognitive capacities enabling the generation of semantics and syntax in language are similar to those needed for design, adding that "the consequence of these capacities is the human's ability to represent objects (design) and abstract concepts (language) with arbitrary visual or material (design) or vocal symbols and act with reference to concepts not limited in time and space" (p. 176).

This line of thought sets the stage for this research - the turning of linguistic information into design knowledge and this research's attempt to account for the nature and dynamics of the relationship between language and design.
The Language Instinct 1994 Methodology:

The path to synthesis conducted by this research involves the knowledge domains of linguistics and semiotics and is informed by classic design literature (Simon, Schön, Alexander). This path denominates an approach by which the researcher assumes the role of interpreter, employing authoritative knowledge, qualitative methods, logical thinking and knowledge exploration, in order to transform information inherent to these domains and construct a unique point of view about designing as activity and as practice.

The 2 major investigations of this research deals with are a possible synthesis between Design and Linguistics (Chomsky, Pinker, Greenberg); and a possible synthesis between Design & Semiotics (Suassure, Barthes, Jakobson). The main sources for linguistics and semiotics in these investigations, respectively, are Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct (1994) and Tony Thwaites's Tools for Cultural Studies (1994). These have been selected because of their wealth of data, wealth of information and clarity about their domain of knowledge. From all the information presented and referred to in these books, this research has specific interest in the intricate workings of Generative Grammar and in the way the Roman Jakobson model (as adapted by Thwaites) could account for, or define the essential functions needed for sign activity in design.
Tools for Cultural Studies 1994 Bibliography:

Austin JL (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Butler J (1993) Bodies that Matter: on discursive limits of "sex". Routledge, New York
Cross N (1999). Natural Intelligence in Design, Design Studies Vol. 20 Pg. 25-39. doi:10.1016/S0142-694X(98)00026-X
Dong, A (2009). The Language of Design. London: Springer-Verlag London Limited.
Greenberg JH (1963). Universals of Language. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Lacan J (1977). The Function of Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis, transl. by Alan Sheridan in �crits: A Selection. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Pinker S (1994). The Language Instinct. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Simon, HA (1969). The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Schon DA (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
Thwaites T, Davis L, Mules W (1994). Tools for Cultural Studies: an Introduction. Melbourne: Macmillan.
36. Exploring Universal Parameters and Principles in Design

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