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Here, Parsons elaborates on both the specificity of design problems as well as the role of the designer in solving them. Overall, Parsons discusses Modernism as design theory and practice, which is explicitly concerned with how we constitute the modern world and therefore reveals design as a fundamentally social process.

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This is an achievement beyond the discipline of philosophy as it opens up a window for an empirical investigation of how these social practices might be enacted in the contemporary design profession. For social science scholars interested in studying design, this provides an alternative route for theorising design practices from the empirical material, bottom-up as it were, and without a detour into the larger theoretical arguments that are not focused on design but on larger societal issues.


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Here, in analysing Modernist thought, Parsons makes the point that aesthetics in design are not only concerned with some form of objective beauty. This leads him to discuss aesthetics in the context of taste and as fundamental — and philosophical — aspects of design concerns.

Philosophy of design

Leading on from that, Parsons discusses how ethical considerations are integral to designing, which, by default, includes huge levels of complexity and compromise. He continues that this, then, is at odds with the Modernist claim of functional design as necessarily ethical design, simply because prioritising certain values e. In that, it both emphasises design as social practice and investigates how key philosophical concerns, such as expression, function, aesthetics and ethics, are featured in these practices.

This not only encourages further social research into these practices, but also provides a much needed framework for how we can explore creative practice and its link to society.

About The Design Philosophy Reader

In other words, Parsons successfully opens up a new and potentially interdisciplinary area of study by giving a comprehensive theoretical framework of design. However, despite his own call to look at design as social practice, Parsons focuses on analysing works and arguments by other scholars. His discussion of Modernism as a philosophical approach to solving design problems breathes life into this notion, and is both necessary and important. Across disciplines, these themes are becoming increasingly important for design scholars and practitioners alike and it would have been intriguing to include this in a philosophical discussion of design.

Parsons scores with his engaging writing that maps out and links up existing philosophical scholarship on design in a highly accessible way. For anyone interested in an intellectual engagement with design, this is an essential read. She is an ethnographer and her research investigates the aesthetic economy of spatial design. Mona works and publishes on the sociology of design, material culture, aesthetics and cultural economy as well as lighting design and public space.

10 of the Best Design Philosophies of All Time

Is Design Finished? Dematerialisation and Changing Things, Cameron Tonkinwise Beyond Affordance Michael May Smart meters don't make us any smarter Elizabeth Shove and Sarah Royston Matter and Mattering or Why are Things "Us "? Technical Mentality, Simondon Form and Imitation Plato Henri Age of the World Picture, Martin Heidegger What is the Anthropolitical? Claire Colbrook Bratton The Posthuman Rosi Braidotti The Sustainment Tony Fry The present is thus an auspicious moment for systematizing a philosophy of, from, and for, design as a strategy for rendering design into a more thoughtful and effectively reconstructive practice.

By drawing on both philosophy and the most current strands of critical social theory, The Design Philosophy Reader provides us with the pillars for such a project.

The Philosophy of Design

In contrast to the much more limited and highly popularized paradigm of design thinking, the Reader demonstrates why the redesigning of design, as the redesigning of the conditions of our collective existence, is the most important intellectual and political project designers and informed citizens can undertake in the current planetary conjuncture. Useful guides to further reading are presented throughout. There is an acceptable balance between older and newer texts, organised into eight distinct parts, together covering an impressively wide range of thinking.

Numerous contributors highlight the pervasiveness of design, the current state of thinking and practice of design. This text will be of value to both design theoreticians and practitioners, and should prove to be an essential addition to all design libraries or collections.


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It fundamentally opens design to be interrogated and theorized beyond the parameters of professional design and norms within academic design theory today. It will be of interest to anyone interested in questioning design as a condition of existence, and those who seek to problematize the discipline.


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The book contains essays that should be required reading for both research and professional work Willis's curation of the Reader is compelling, not least because she has a critical vision; this is not a sample of work, or just a collection of the great and good. Once you have successfully made your request, you will receive a confirmation email explaining that your request is awaiting approval. On approval, you will either be sent the print copy of the book, or you will receive a further email containing the link to allow you to download your eBook.