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Spirituality and Design: creating a meaningful material culture through progressive design praxis

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Abstract

Design is considered in this essay as a discipline that seeks to synthesize practical needs with human values in order to improve an existing condition. It is demonstrated that a form of design that is truly capable of contributing to improvement and a better world – as typically claimed by designers – requires a deeper consideration of the ideas and values that inform our judgment of these qualifications. The essay shows that such considerations cannot be easily reconciled with consumption-based economics nor adequately addressed via commonly used deductive and/or inductive methods but requires the use of interpretation and imagination, both of which are fundamental to the activity of designing. A design approach is described that is capable of integrating multiple considerations through a simultaneous act of interpretation, understanding and imaginative application. And, importantly, it is argued that values-based judgments, which guide design transmutations aimed at improvement, need to be grounded in a culture’s philosophical and spiritual traditions. The term given here to this values-based design process that strives toward virtue is progressive design praxis.