Beyond the Formal: Critical Methods for the Development and Assessment of Design
In the educational and professional design environment, most design criticism is centered around the formal and practical aspects of the design. While formal criticism is a necessary and vital method of critique, relying solely on this approach fails to consider how our designs are influenced historically, culturally, and socially, and the design's larger historical, cultural, and social contexts. Learning to examine design not only formally, but also metaphorically, genealogically, ethically, and symptomatically enhances critical thinking and problem solving abilities. In this paper I will present these critical methods and show how they can be used to enhance not only the critique of work, but also parallel and/or precede the development of the design itself. Designers must understand how their work is influenced by history and impacted by the moral, intellectual, and cultural climate of an era. They must be able to examine design rhetorically, to identify the work's key metaphors and surmise the designer's intent. They must also be able to examine the relationship of values, design, and social responsibility. These issues and others will be explored.
Keywords: Critical Methods of Design, Formal, Metaphorical, Genealogical, Ethical, Symptomatic Criticism, Critical Thinking, Visual Problem Solving
Prof. David Bieloh
Assistant Professor, Department of Art, Austin Peay State University