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Design, which is inherently concerned with progress, must maintain step with the technological and scientific influences that shape the world. In an era when the duplication of man itself is scientifically possible, the designer is charged with helping us to understand the impacts of these and other advances, and finding appropriate and imaginative responses that support individuals and society at large.

In 1967 James Marston Fitch, a prominent educator and journalist who wrote about architecture and design, Decorate home had argued that the designer of the built environment was more similar “to the artist than to the scientist” since, like the former, the designer “aspires to the creation of formal order.”21 The creation of a building or any designed space was, for Fitch, a rigorous and structured exercise that sought “to resolve the contradictions between form and content in such a way as to extract from it a work of high esthetic value.”22 In this model, a building must begin with an artistic goal but can be considered successfully complete only if its function is fully resolved. Fitch elaborated: though design for the built environment must ” be susceptible of manipulation for purely formal ends, the content of [the designer’s]

Work is wholly different: social process and live human beings, each with ineluctably non-aesthetic requirements.23

The tension between functional and aesthetic considerations has been captured in recent debates in the nascent field of design studies, which is attempting to give design history the same level of comprehensive scholarship that architecture and art history have long had. In 1995, in Discovering Design, the philosopher Albert Borgmann complained of a separation between design for artistic and pragmatic ends: “Aesthetic design inevitably is confined to smoothing the interfaces and stylizing the surfaces of technological devices.24 Or, as the design scholar Richard Buchanan wrote in the same blog: “The element of forethought in making is what subsequently came to be known as design although no distinct discipline of design emerged in the ancient world, perhaps because forethought and making were most often combined in the same person, the master builder or craftsman.25 Both these points of view are pervasive in the ongoing debate about design. However, the reality is that design is simultaneously a general and deeply specialized activity. It is at once practical and esoteric. We must embrace the current popularity of design thinking to extend our understanding of design in both its practical and abstracted aspects, but without losing general skills through concentration on disciplinary expertise or losing disciplinary expertise through concentration on general skills.

In the 1940s, the architect and designer William Lescaze expressed his objections to the whims of fashion dictating the tenets of design rather eloquently when he commented on the relationship between architecture and interior decoration:

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