Design enquiry: tacit knowledge and invention in science

RUST, C. (2004). Design enquiry: tacit knowledge and invention in science. Design issues, 20 (4), 76-85.


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For some years there has been discussion and speculation on the subject of "design enquiry" and a number of people, for example Richard Buchanan and Clive Dilnot , have looked for forms of enquiry appropriate to, or fruitful for, design as an academic and professional discipline. From a different perspective, Ranulph Glanville has suggested that the relationship between design and science might be redefined to acknowledge similarities of method that are disguised by forms of narrative employed by scientists. However most contributions in these debates deal with generalisations so I would like to propose some specific ways in which designers can explore and develop the concepts and practices of design enquiry.

In particular I would like to discuss a kind of enquiry where designers can play a role in forming and pursuing questions which arise in the natural sciences and I will suggest that this role might be extended into some other fields. In doing so I will make reference to the subject of tacit knowledge, a concept which was formalised by Michael Polanyi in his consideration of the philosophy of science 50 years ago and which has attracted continuing interest (his 1958 book, Personal Knowledge, was reprinted most recently in 1998 and 2002), but also some shallow interpretation since then.

I believe that Polanyi has a great deal to offer the design community, perhaps more in some respects than the widely cited work of Donald Schon who dealt with general questions of practice relevant to many disciplines while Polanyi addressed the relationship between enquiry and creativity in a very direct way.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © MIT Press
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Identification Number:
Page Range: 76-85
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 30 Jul 2007
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 14:00

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