A Designer’s Philosophy

I am starting work on a book called A Designer’s Philosophy.

The book will outline a comprehensive philosophy suitable for a designer. To some extent it will include a philosophy of design, but that will not be its primary focus. One of the central, deliberately accepted assumptions of the work is the principle of pluralism, which is why it is “a” philosophy for one particular way of approaching life. This book will offer a set of conceptual tools to help a certain kind of person self-orient, understand, articulate and act in the world in a cohesive, consistent and meaningful way: a sort of user-interface for the environing, pregnant chaos we know as reality.

It will be based very heavily on American Pragmatism, phenomenology and philosophical hermeneutics (fused in the tradition of Richard J. Bernstein), synthesized with several like-minded but diversely-focused parallel practical traditions including current UX practice, Soft Systems, Design Thinking and Actor-Network theory. I will also steal freely from late Wittgenstein, various Existentialists, philosophers/historians/scholars of science and even some not-very-reputable theologians.

But this will not be a scholarly book. I will do my best to include no quotations or footnotes, or anything that complicates the dead-simple but elusive concepts this book exists to convey. It will be a comprehensive, organic vision and whatever introduces a seam or calls attention to a grafting scar, such as a nod to the discoverer of this idea or that, will be cut, smoothed and disguised to the best of my ability.

In other words, this book will be a great theft. I will acknowledge the thinkers to whom I owe an intellectual debt in one little easily-skipped blurb introducing a bibliography. Essentially, I am going to steal a great number of insights and make them my own, then provide a list of the households I hit as a cursory acknowledgement of indebtedness. But in fact, it will be an act of thieves’ honor: “I’ve hit these homes and made off with all the loot I could carry in my own arms. I think I grabbed the best stuff, but it might be profitable to hit it again.”

My goal is to make this book as visual, as simple and as compact as possible. If I can distill it into a pamphlet of 16 pages of diagrams that will be perfect, because that makes letterpress a viable option.

The philosophy will divide into three parts (not including introduction and conclusion):

  • Ontology: “What is being?”
  • Epistemology: “How do I know truth?”
  • Ethics: “How should I live?”

The book will be 100% free of techniques, case studies, scientific corroboration and any other content that might give it the slightest chance of success. This book will be beautiful, and meant to be fetishized (and fetishized with the purest conscience, because the book will show why fetishes are necessary and valuable). My view is that while philosophy can be understood as a form of pre-science indispensable to scientific progress, it can also be understood as a form of art, and at its best is an inseparable synthesis of prescience and art, a beautiful and inspiring surveying and mapping of a field of possibility upon which methodical disciplines can travel, settle and flourish.

Because it is unlikely to sell and because I want complete control over its physical form, I’m anticipating self-publishing it in a very small run.

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