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Declaration by design: Rhetoric, argument and demonstration in design practice

Buchanan, R. (1985) Declaration by design: Rhetoric, argument and demonstration in design practice. Design Issues, pp 4-22

Buchanan, using a range of examples from product, furniture and industrial design illustrates how design objects pose or propose arguments about the world. These arguments are constructed using the technological reasoning, character, and emotion of the object and pose arguments about the world. This work creates a backdrop for Bogosts work on Procedural Rhetoric, but proposes that all authored and designed objects create rhetoric. The¬†technological reasoning, character, and emotion could map onto the Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics framework from Le Blanc et al to create new ways to discuss how games create meaning (but this would need to fall within another study). Bogosts’ work offers a deeper understanding of how systems author arguments, which could fall under the “technological reasoning” however all technological apparatus needs to be considered within this technological reasoning. If this is the case, then tablet computing poses certain arguments about interaction, which collapse the abstraction or interaction mapping in the HCI process through more traditional interaction technologies such as mice. There are also a number of logical conclusions that can come from the assessment of games for animals if Buchanan’s work is taken as an approach, for instance the shape and ratio of the screen maps well onto the propositions of the human field of view, the gesture controls a designed around human physiology. By this token then as Mancini suggests, designers must create new technologies and systems specifically for animals to create ACI¬†¬†differentiating between ACI and Animal Technology. If this is the case, then systems need to be adapted or specifically designed to cater for animals, and Cat Cat Revolution offers an interesting solution buy breaking the rectangular screen into mini circular screens or holes by adapting the interface.

Useful Quotes

“these studies also involve a significant rhetorical component when they are concerned with the process of conceiving designs; the influence of a designer’s personal attitudes, values, or design philosophy; or the way the social world of design organization, management, and corporate policy shapes a design” (p 4)

“these studies are rhetorical also because they treat design as a mediating agency of influence between designers and their intended audience” (p 4)

“Their persuasion comes through arguments presented in things rather than words; they present ideas in a manipulation of the materials and processes of nature, not language. In addition, because there is seldom a single solution to a problem in human affairs dictated by the laws of nature, they do not provide necessary solutions. Solutions are only probable and can always be changed or set in opposition to others. In this sense, technology is part of the broader art of design, an art of thought and communication that can induce in others a wide range of beliefs about practical life for the individual and for groups” (p 7)

“Design art of thought directed to practical action through the persuasiveness of objects and, therefore, design involves the vivid expression of competing ideas about social life.” (p 7)

“Three elements of a design argument are applicable here; they involve interrelated qualities of technological reasoning, character, and emotion, all of which provide the substance and form of design communication” (p 9)

“The new area of product semantics is closely related to this aspect of persuasion in its attempt to engage the mind of the audience and make the workings of a product more readily accessible.” (p 12)

“the situation is little different for any order of design product or technological complexity: the assertoric rhetoric of the product quickly becomes part of the broader verbal rhetoric used in deliberating about the future or judging the past” (p 21)

Further Reading

Krippendorff K. and Butter R., “Product Semantics: Explaining the Symbolic Qualities of Form,” Innovation 3/2 (Spring 1984).

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