The Potential of Design Aesthetics


Aesthetics has been central to the discourse on design, both in relation to theory and practice. However, the connection is somewhat paradoxical. On one hand, aesthetics is emphasized as a fundamental issue of importance. On the other hand, what exactly is meant by ‘aesthetics’ or ‘aesthetic’ is inherently unclear. Both the terms for its usage and the implications seems by and large unresolved.

Nevertheless, there is a tradition which relates aesthetics to the appearance of design objects, their appeal to the senses and judgement of their qualities. The issue of aesthetics has been closely tied to its treatment in the arts in general, and so is intimately connected to research within the humanities. The theory of aesthetics oriented towards fine art has come to focus on questions of the production of meaning within the aesthetic artefact, and especially its complication. Meanwhile a more culturally aware research has proposed a shift of attention towards the aesthetic relations, rather than the artifact, and has ventured into the aesthetics of the everyday, and the claimed trend towards aestheticization of all aspects of culture and society.

The theory of the aesthetic, and the aesthetic field of research, are thus both under transformation and expansion.

There are two aims for focusing on aesthetics in a seed-project within SDU Design:

  1. To question the traditional art-based aesthetics and consider recent knowledge, and relate this to design, to address a deficit of research. The key question will be: how can a closer understanding of the aesthetics of design challenge and evolve the potential of meaning and communication for designing, the designed artifact, and the consumption and use of design?
  2. To explore and establish cross-disciplinary research-collaborations around the issue of design aesthetics. The following possibilities exist:a. Research strategies of aestheticization in relation to consumer culture and economics within branding, brand spaces, interior design and retail design (HUM, SAM, DK)

    b. Research the role of aesthetics within the experience of design by users, in relation to interaction design and user involvement (TEK, HUM, DK)

    c. Research aesthetic issues in relation to sustainable products and sustainable consumption

    d. Research the role of aesthetic parameters within processes of design and design development, beyond the design artifact from design process to design management (DK, SAM, TEK, HUM)

    All research themes can be integrated and developed in relation to courses and teaching.

The intentions in focusing on the issue of aesthetics is to question and utilize the traditional art based aesthetics and look into recent understandings and relate these to design and thereby address the deficit of research in the area so far. The question of key importance in this respect will be: How can a closer understanding of the aesthetics of design challenge and evolve the potential of meaning and communication in relation to designing, the designed artifact and the consumption and use of design?