Rethoric, humanism and design

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  • Publicado : 30 de agosto de 2010
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Design Seminar1

By Richard Buchanan


In his essay ‘Rhetoric, Humanism and Design”, Richard Buchanan explores the four perspectives based on rhetorical commonplaces in the study and practice of design.

Buchanan explains that the scope of design and the range of styles and otherqualities of individual products within even one category are very diverse and the way to reduce them to an intelligible pattern is a new conception. The key to such a conception lies in the subject matter of design, which according to Buchanan is not given but radically indeterminate and created trough the activities of invention and planning.
Buchanan explains that design is a discipline where theconception of the subject matter, method, and purpose is an integral part of the activity and of the results. The interplay between the rhetoric and poetics of products is significant issue in the design studies, but the orientation in logical sequence is from rhetoric to poetics.

In Buchanan’s view, one way to investigate the different forms of design in the twentieth century is to considerdifferent accounts of the origins of design, each indicating a rhetorical commonplace: Spiritual Ideas, Character and Discipline, Material Conditions and Power and Control. They are usually traced to one of only four beginnings: in the twentieth century with the formation of new disciplines of design thinking, in the early days of the Industrial Revolution with the transformation of the instrumentsof production and the social conditions of work, in the prehistoric period with the creation of images and objects by primitive human being, and finally with the creation of the Universe, the first act of God.

Buchanan continues his study of the various forms of design in the twentieth century beginning with the perspective that focuses on design as a discipline.

The author looks in to theIntegrative Arts in the Ancient World with Aristotle discovering a science of production, ‘Poetic science’ or ‘Poetics’, directed toward an understanding of the differences among all arts and their products due to specific materials, techniques of production, forms, and purposes that are relevant to each kind of making. Aristotle found that the differences among the various literary and constructivearts depend on a fundamental understanding of the human capacity to make, considered to be independent from the specialization of a particular art. He also found it important to distinguish the element of forethought from the specific considerations and activities that are relevant to each kind of making. Forethought is an ‘architectonic’ or ‘master’ art, concerned with discovery and invention,argument and planning, and the purposes or ends that guide the activities of the subordinate arts and crafts.

Furthermore, Buchanan looks at the Integrative Arts in the Renaissance .The first academies of art were created in the sixteenth century. The great achievement of Renaissance was the creation of belles letters and beaux arts, along with a rebirth of rhetorical thought which influencedall areas of cultures and all arts of making, yielding a secularised humanism which influenced the sciences, the reason being an unusual confluence of Platonic and Aristotelian ideas, along with a rebirth of rhetoric through the direct or mediated influence of Cicero, Horace, Quintilian, and Longinus. In between Renaissance and the early days of the Industrial Revolution the invention of techniquesfor mass production in support of the practical arts allowed and required a separation of designing from making.

Looking into the Integrative Arts in the Twentieth Century Buchanan explains that the most significant efforts to rejoin design and making came with the cultural and philosophic revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century. The ground of the new art of design was not to be...
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