discursive design      

We define Discursive Design as a category of product design that treats artifacts principally as transmitters of substantive ideas, rather than as mere instruments of utility. Discursive Design is a rubric beneath which other existing, similarly-minded approaches exist, such as Critical Design and/or Design for Debate.

The primary intent of the discursive designer is to encourage users’ reflections upon, or engagements with, a particular discourse; the goal is to affect the intellect. As distinct from objects of art, architecture, and graphics, which can all be agents of discourse, products have particular qualities that offer unique communicative advantages.

Discursive design leverages functionality (use-value) to achieve the primary goal of delivering a deliberate message (sign-value), one potent enough to spark contemplation, and perhaps even strong emotion and action.

Moving beyond traditional styling or commercial problem solving, discursive design embraces a more expansive role for the designer: engaged citizen, sociocultural critic, educator, provocateur.

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