Design Digestion: Work in Progress

By Jamie Brassett and Peter Booth.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Enough of taste and mastication. It is time to look beyond the momentary, tasteful consumption of designed objects, in order to make account of the various meanings that are generated through their more drawn-out engagements. It seems to us that the discourses around consumption that have abounded in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in the last 40 years have simultaneously limited their focus on one aspect of our relationship with designed objects, services, images &c., and confused such a limited focus with all characteristics of this relationship: the term “consumption” seems to refer to everything from desire through acquisition to use. Under the auspices of discourses of consumption, objects, once consumed, are destined only for the rubbish tip. Is there any wonder that consumer culture is one that prioritizes taste and waste? The long, alimentary process in-between seems to be largely forgotten. We will offer a furthering of the biological metaphor beyond the mouth—the site of consumption—by stating that after the initial burst of taste that consuming designed objects gives, there is a more prolonged digestion. Digestion takes time; it breaks down the thing(s) digested and thus broken, the digested bits are used by our systems in various ways. In this paper we will focus on this process, in order to outline the beginnings of a theory of digestion; an outline that is based-upon an analysis of the rituals, practices and other experiences that people have with designed objects. It is important for us that such an account is not merely reflective and analytical of the culture in which design operates. Once we have articulated this theory of digestion, it is our intention to use it to generate real design outcomes in a commercial setting. The move from, and relationship between, the theoretical/analytical and the creative/synthetic is an important one.

Keywords: Consumer Culture, Design Theory, Design Practice, Innovation, User Practices

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.75-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 544.829KB).

Dr. Jamie Brassett

Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader Contextual Studies, BA (Hons.) Product Design, School of Graphic & Industrial Design, University of the Arts, London, UK

Currently Programme Leader for Contextual Studies on BA (Hons.) Product Design, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts, London. Teaching in Art & Design since 1995. MA Philosophy & Literature (Warwick 1989) & PhD Philosophy (Warwick 1993). PhD Thesis titled ‘Cartographies of Subjectification’ examined the materiality of spaced subjectivity using concepts from Immanuel Kant, Gaston Bachelard, Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari. Most of my work in the 1990s centred on the philosophical consequences for subjectivity of practices of body modification. The elements of this discourse that take in concepts of the cyborg & design practice form the basis of the book that I’m writing called ‘CyberDesire’. More recent work focuses on the relations between design theory & practice, especially the use of philosophical concepts to drive design practice. Writing in this area includes work on emergence & fashion design, relating Spinoza’s body to designing things and looking at philosophy of science & literature to produce models for relating design & culture. Working as design & education consultant for the last ten years. Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts since 2000.

Peter Booth

Director, Tin Horse Design Ltd., Marlborough, UK

Tin Horse Design Ltd., Marlborough, UNITED KINGDOM


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