4.273 | Fall 2001 | Graduate

Introduction to Design Inquiry


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session

Course Overview

In this class we entertain the idea that the making of objects facilitates the development of ideas. Such objects are made in different media – words, physical materials, virtual images – and, in turn, these media afford different possibilities for interpretation and manipulation. For example, it is easy to tear away and add to a clay model, not so easy with one made of hard woods; but it is easier with the latter to establish a regular module or repeating shape or motif. There are several roles that such objects can play: to enable the designer him or herself to visualize and make sense out of the world they see and experience; to permit the designer to visualize and to manipulate ideas under consideration; to facilitate communication with others; and to engage the form, materials and structure of the artifact ultimately to be built. Their generative power for the designer may not depend upon precise correspondence, indeed, early in the design process such objects may serve the design process well by being quite different from the ultimate artifact and by suggesting possibilities to the designer unforeseen at the time of their making. And not all intermediate objects can (or should have to) fill all three roles.

During the semester we shall carry out exercises that attempt to see the world through others’ eyes, that employ ones own experience and knowledge as tools of observation and experimentation, that address the heritage of stable associations of use and form conveyed through architecture, that externalize some of the operations of design and that highlight esthetic intent along with the regulating devices and rules of design, and that consider more complex intermediate objects that have systemic as well as artifactual characteristics. Through all these exercises we shall have the opportunity to consider and to reconsider the role of the designer and the nature of the design activity.

In the past we have used the terms “representation” and “expressive objects” to label the central theme of the course, the first giving emphasis to the material world of design, the second placing emphasis on the power of objects, whether representations or realities, to evoke meaning. This year we have chosen “intermediary objects” as this phrase places more emphasis on the role that these play in the mind of the designer, either for perception of the world or for the invention of new ones.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2001
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes