The Finality Argument on Design Methods: A Theotertical Approach from the Social Sciences

John Dairo Restrepo-Giraldo, Alberto Rodríguez, Henri Christiaans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Attempts to define design as only information–processing, pattern–recognition, problem–solving or decision–making activities have been done in the past (Cross, 1992), however, they have proved to be weak and reductionistic. Design should be considered in all its magnitude, as a set of teleological purposive–rational actions that follow a goal, goal that is commonly considered –inaccurately– in the prescriptive methods the designed object itself. Objects are configured with the objective of producing certain desired states of the world, states that respond to human needs and aspirations, beliefs and values (Blasco 1997, Kamenetzky 1992, Max–Neef 1992, Restrepo 1999). At the same time, design processes are organized from the idea of obtaining a product (object) that possesses the capacity of producing such aimed states, among other conditions. Even though the methodics have the apparent finality of obtaining a solution conceived as an object, its second order finality underlies in the object’s finality –the finality of the finality– Design procedures, methods and methodics should then go beyond the finality of configuring an object. They should respond to second order purposes, it is, to the end–goals of the aimed objects and thus to biological, psychological and socio–cultural aspects. However, current design methodics used in industrial design, mostly taken from mechanical engineering –Pahl & Beitz, Hubka, Rodenacker, Köller, VDI–2222, Jones, Ullman, etc.– are prescriptive methods that start from the idea that there is a problem to be ‘solved’ and an object to be ‘produced’ serving as the solution. The subjacent idea is that there is a black box to be configured. This could be enough for certain design situations, but using these methods makes difficult the management and inclusion of important contextual information such as users’ cultural background, meanings an senses, attribution of functions and modes of use, etc. Developing a framework that considers contextual information and the way it flows through the whole process could lead to more effective design procedures, methods and methodics. In figure x, a description of the information flow is depicted. This framework operates in different contexts that are defined according to the user involved. In each case, a part of the methodic can be defined from the goals defined for each user in each context (stockholders, marketing, assembly or manufacturing teams, end–users, etc) This framework can be empirically tested analyzing one of the sub–products of the design process, the ‘design concept’. In order to do that, empirical data will be collected and analyzed from design experts in industry and academy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign Plus Research
EditorsSilvia Pizzocaro
Place of PublicationMilano
PublisherPolitecnico Di Milano
Publication date2000
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes
EventDesign Plus Research -
Duration: 1 Jan 2000 → …


ConferenceDesign Plus Research
Period01/01/2000 → …


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