Discovering Design reflects the growing recognition that the design of the everyday world deserves attention not only as a professional practice but as a subject of social, cultural, and philosophic investigation. Victor Margolin, cofounder and an editor of the journal Design Issues, and Richard Buchanan, also an editor of the journal, bring together eleven essays by scholars in fields ranging from psychology, sociology, and political theory to technology studies, rhetoric, and philosophy. The essayists share the editors' concern, first made clear in Margolin's Design Discourse: History, Theory, Criticism, with the the development of design studies as a field of interdisciplinary research.
The contributors (Gianfranco Zaccai, Albert Borgmann, Richard Buchanan, Augusto Morello, Tufan Orel, Nigel Cross, Victor Margolin, Langdon Winner, Carl Mitcham, Tony Fry, and Ezio Manzini) focus on three broad themes that form a sequence of fundamental issues: how to shape design as a subject matter, how to distinguish the activity of designing in the complex world of action, and how to address the basic questions of value and responsibility that persistently arise in the discussion and practice of design. The editors' introduction provides a useful overview of these questions and offers a multidisciplinary framework for design studies. The essays discuss such topics as the relation of aesthetics to technology, the place of design in social action, the role of the consumer in design decisions, and the need for ethical practice in contemporary design. Manzini's concluding essay shows how the issue of ethics should connect responsible behavior to decisions made every day in the manufacture of objects.