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Design on a Darkling Plain: transcending utility through questions in form

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2/12/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>The Design Journal
Issue number3
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)347-372
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This practice-based design exploration considers the relationship of contemporary products to issues of sustainability and enduring meaning. The secondary or extrinsic value of products, which includes technological advancement and business development, is discussed. Instrumental value is also addressed, along with a product’s intrinsic value – or lack of it. This yields a set of general propositions for countering triviality and waste and increasing intrinsic value, and some of these propositions fall under the remit of design. Against this backdrop, product meaning and intrinsic value are considered with reference to the philosophy of E. F. Schumacher as well as various critiques – from Arnold in the nineteenth century to Orr in the twenty-first – and a case is made for objects of design, rather than art, that have no practical utility but whose function is concerned with what might be referred to as ‘inner work’. These arguments and ideas are then translated into a series of propositional objects – or questions in form – that ask how matters of ultimate concern, which are inherently ineffable, might be appropriately expressed as contemporary, contemplative artefacts.