PhD Program in Design


Exploring Universal Structure to Design

Exploring Universal Structure to Design

Yoad David Luxembourg
Supervisor: Heitor Alvelos


The present research aims to inform and explore the relationship between language activity and design activity, their competence and performance, inquiring into the structural dynamics with which these two seemingly distinct human abilities manifest and are applied as well as to the validity of universal grammar (generative grammar) in design. This analysis discusses and composes a selective vision that aims to remove the distinction between material artefacts, informative artefacts, and lingual artefacts. These three categories are viewed as subgroups of man made designed artefacts, and framed as acts of communication.

This analysis scrutinizes the applicability of lingual principles, parameters and structures in design, attempting to validate theories, arguments and observations, rooted in the fields linguistics, in the field of design, subsequently identifying in what ways language and design are similar. As a part of this research, this analysis seeks to recognize or identify patterns, which are associated with language activity, in design activity – with language use, in design use.

As source of information on linguistics this analysis works with Pinker’s “The Language Instinct” (1994), chosen for its wealth of data and clarity of information. Focusing on creating a clear and coherent vision, the scale of this analysis consists of selected statements from the first four chapters of that work. These were selected according to their relevance and contribution towards constructing a concept of design ability as language-based in a structural perspective.

This analysis consists of four sections, one for each chapter. Each section contains a set of logical equations. Each equation consists of both an original statement and its transitioned form and is followed with a discussion motivating the axis of meaning formed, and the choice of terms and concepts used in the transitioning of the original statement into design. While examining under which conditions each altered statement means the same about design as meant by Pinker about language, Pinker’s statements are contrasted against statements of authors from the field of design and fields relating to it, such as Dong (2009), Thwaites et al. (2002), Cross, (2011), Krippendorff (2006), and Gibson (1986).

This analysis identifies similar patterns between language and design; in the ways mental dictionary is used in language and design; in syntactic roles played by parts of speech in lingual and designed parole; in the way abstract “ideal types” (Krippendorff, 2006) from design use and “pure abstract sound impression” (Thwaites et al., 2002) from language use evoke general and abstract concepts in the mind, and; in cognitive processes used in language and design in order to hunt for clarity and comprehension – in order to differentiate structured information from the radiant flow of sensory information input. These suggest the possibility that rather than being used for the creation of parole, grammar is a cognitive process primarily used in perception in order to extract structures, the “ambient light“, from the ongoing flow of sensory data (sound, touch, sight, smell ,or taste), the “radiant light”(Gibson, 1986).

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