Today in our design seminar, we started what Dick Buchanan referred to as the third part of the course: making connections that are significant.

(Honestly, I’m not sure what parts one and two were, since I can only think of one previous part: defining the four modes of interaction. Nonetheless, there is so much brain stuff going on in this course, that lack of immediate recall has been the norm.)

We began talking about arts, methods, and techniques, but mostly focused on the arts.

What follows are my notes, which may not be coherent to anyone but me (and even that is questionable). But there are some interesting things in here that you might want to look at.


Arts: broad strategic perspectives
Method: Framework to accomplish a particular task
Technique: Little bits of business

Two methods: invention and visualization (there are many more)
These are who we are as designers

With arts, methods, and techniques, you know what comes next.

Our culture is grounded in the arts (human culture). Dick states that we are so close to it, and no one bothers to teach it. We’ve been obsessed with words and deeds, facts and data. There was a time when people began with principles.

Principles -> arts, methods, techniques -> data and facts
(these have been ordered differently throughout time)

Very seldom to we begin with principles.

Arts begin in practice; we assemble and formalize the things that work well.

Art = a habit of {thinking, doing, making} that demonstrates systematic discipline guided by a principle. product

Habit: when an art is so deep in you it becomes second nature.

Theme is a connection: it’s impossible to state a theme (a scary proposition, says Dick); all you can state are variations of a theme; every time you try to explain, it’s always a variation. This is one of the paradoxes of the arts: they connect, but every time you state it, you state a variation.

Arts provide connections: it’s all they do. Those connections are everything to us (as designers).

You don’t know where you start, and you don’t know where you’re going to end. Art is the connection.

Art is different from random behavior, but there are some arts that allow for random, chance things. Knowing that is part of the arts.

“There’s a method to his madness.” from Hamlet

Connections are themes. Two kinds of themes: formal themes (the arts); material themes. What we did in the second part was look at material themes. Every one of the works we looked at displayed an art.

We are at grad school to learn arts.

Book: formalization of habits. Good habits = good book. Bad habits = book sucks.

Confucius arts: six

Talks about the internal and the external. These are terms of art. Mental and physical. From these he builds a system of arts for Chinese culture. Dialectic. Two levels of meaning, literal and metaphoric.

Archery: staying on target, understanding the goal (internal art)
Chariot driving: strategic planning (external art)

Music (internal)
Ritual (external)

Art of numbers (internal)
Art of words (external)

Four arts of western culture that are important: Rhetoric, grammar, logic, dialectic

These cover the range of what designers try to do. Each has different ways of making connections, different things that work well.

  • Rhetoric: invention in order to persuade people (lead people to do different things: iPod)
  • Grammar: interpreting and expressing
  • Logic: is about finding the necessary consequences (given certain situations, other things follow)
  • Dialectic: all about discovering the truth, through the opinions of people

Grammar and logic like to fix the meanings of things. Topics and categories are some of the tools that operate around these arts.

These arts make connections with the past and the invention of new things. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find these arts. As a designer, your art should be inarted, imbued with art. These arts crisscross.

When an art works well, the outcome is product.

Four great classes of products:

  • signs, symbols that communicate
  • tangible, physical
  • activities
  • organizations, environments, systems.

How do we talk about products? One of the key matters for designers is the nature of products.

Did you make it this far?