Design as rational discourse | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1477-965X
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9533


Although the popular view of design as enhancing beauty and functionality is not wrong, it is not . By thinking of design as not only aesthetic (enhancing beauty) and purposive (enhancing functionality) but also as discursive, this paper addresses the increasing prominence of design, and gives a criterion for evaluating design, by asking what of discourse it should be. Design, I contend, ought to participate in rational, as compared to commercial or authoritarian, discourse. Commercial discourse reduces humans to consumers, and authoritarian discourse divides humans into masters and slaves. Rational discourse envisions humans in the highest possible terms, as holding equal place within the real, and equal standing before the truth, and therefore as sharing common cause with one another, at all times and places, and under any conditions. Commercial and authoritarian discourse both attempt to consolidate agency in the hands of a few; rational discourse, to distribute agency equally to all. Design is among the enterprises for which the obligatory work is rational discourse, and the stakes thus the fullness of our humanity and the humanity of others.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): authoritarian; commercial; design; discourse; humanity; rational
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