Making Design Theory
By Johan Redström
A new approach to theory development for practice-driven research, proposing that theory is something made in and through design.
Tendencies toward “academization” of traditionally practice-based fields have forced design to articulate itself as an academic discipline, in theoretical terms. In this book, Johan Redström offers a new approach to theory development in design research–one that is driven by practice, experimentation, and making. Redström does not theorize from the outside, but explores the idea that, just as design research engages in the making of many different kinds of things, theory might well be one of those things it is making.
Redström proposes that we consider theory not as stable and constant but as something unfolding—something acted as much as articulated, inherently fluid and transitional. Redström describes three ways in which theory, in particular formulating basic definitions, is made through design: the use of combinations of fluid terms to articulate issues; the definition of more complex concepts through practice; and combining sets of definitions made through design into “programs.” These are the building blocks for creating conceptual structures to support design.
Design seems to thrive on the complexities arising from dichotomies: form and function, freedom and method, art and science. With his idea of transitional theory, Redström departs from the traditional academic imperative to pick a side—theory or practice, art or science. Doing so, he opens up something like a design space for theory development within design research.
Published by MIT Press, 2017
Hardcover, 192 pages, 28 b&w images, 6 × 9 inches