Design in a Vacuum
The baby has been put to bed. There is still plenty of daylight left.
There are many definitions of “design.” One I liked for a while goes like this: “Design is to form with intent,” or “to design is to give form to intent.” It’s a definition that served me well for years, as I often found myself arguing for a design perspective on things that were not aesthetic (or even visual) in nature.
Another definition I came upon recently is interesting. It reads, “Design is the process by which a designer creates a context to be encountered by a participant from which meaning emerges.”
Though each of these definitions seems appropriate to represent “design” as concept, neither differentiates design from art. One could easily say of art that it is a process of forming with intent. Even if the artist has no “message” or notion of what that form will be, the intent to make something — anything — alone satisfies the definition. The same is true for the other definition, though what is unique about it is that it seems to imply that design (or art, if substituted) requires a participant — a user, a viewer, a listener, a mind, a body — without which there can be no meaning. I suppose this doesn’t necessarily mean the participant and the designer cannot be one and the same, but to interpret it in this way seems a stretch of the imagination. And that is curious to me. Can design — or art — exist in a vacuum? Can an act of making be design or art if no one ever encounters what is made?