Wonders Revealed: Design and Faux Science

by mo on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Having read up on the significance of the relationship between "art" and "science", it was interesting to come across this piece that talked about the popularity of what the author terms as "faux science" in the practice of design.

Opening the piece, he quotes Helfand and Drenttel:

“As a cultural influence its reach is pervasive: from stem cell research to sustainable agriculture, it affects what we eat and breathe, and where and why and how we behave the way we do. In a very real sense, science is the connective tissue linking past to present to future, and in this context, its relationship to visual communication is critical. It is through graphic design that the complexities and wonders of science is revealed.” (2003, p. 202)

But what he proceeds to highlight is that much design that heralds "science", only does so in a "faux science" sense, merely drawing upon aesthetics (such as scientific drawings and diagrams) and superficial details, rather than delving into the deeper concepts that define us as humans – which in turn, if explored in design, marks design as a similar mode with which to understand ourselves.

“Science”, wrote Heidegger, “is one of the most essential phenomena of the modern age.” (Helfand and Drenttel 2003, p. 204)

Drawing upon the weight of the quote, he suggests that we can grow to be designers who intrinsically work with the intricacies of science, by ensuring that in the first place, it has a place in our earlier education and day-to-day life: "Why don’t design students study music theory? Why aren’t they required to learn a second language? And why, for that matter, don’t they study science?" (Helfand and Drenttel 2003, p. 206).

Reference: Helfand, J. and Drenttel, W. 2003, ‘Wonders Revealed: Design and Faux Science’, in Bierut, M., Drenttel, W. & Heller, S. 2006, Looking closer 5, Allworth Press, New York.

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