Abstract

Design that is effective by way of having an influence and impact on a human subject’s belief, behaviour, or action is a key concern of designers in the field of visual communications. Because of these aspects, one discourse that has grown in scholarly circles over recent decades is that design is a form of rhetoric. Nonetheless, the way that rhetoric has been applied to design practice itself – as a means of analysing the communicative function of designed artefacts and to posit propositions for practice – has remained largely theoretical. The purpose of this paper is to extend an understanding of design practice’s rhetorical dimensions. Rather than start with rhetoric however, the paper reframes the discussion by looking through the discourse of “resonance” in design practice. The paper discusses the results from a series of interviews with internationally recognised designers on the topic of resonance. The significance of these results is that although designers didn’t use the term rhetoric, they described resonant design as both effective and affective – it makes an impact, “touches”, “cuts-through”, and evokes an awareness of self as a human subject. This paper elaborates on the way that the discourse of resonance in design practice is chiefly propelled by deliberative rhetoric: that the purpose of design is to exhort or dissuade through the use of modes of appeal intended to effect responses from users/readers. In conclusion, the author argues that the study of a relationship between design and deliberative rhetoric must also critique this relationship, in order to address the positions that designers themselves take up in a practice that advocates courses of action for human subjects.

Keywords:

Visual communication; rhetoric; resonance; design practice; design education

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Jun 16th, 12:00 AM

Design as Rhetoric in the Discourse of Resonance

Design that is effective by way of having an influence and impact on a human subject’s belief, behaviour, or action is a key concern of designers in the field of visual communications. Because of these aspects, one discourse that has grown in scholarly circles over recent decades is that design is a form of rhetoric. Nonetheless, the way that rhetoric has been applied to design practice itself – as a means of analysing the communicative function of designed artefacts and to posit propositions for practice – has remained largely theoretical. The purpose of this paper is to extend an understanding of design practice’s rhetorical dimensions. Rather than start with rhetoric however, the paper reframes the discussion by looking through the discourse of “resonance” in design practice. The paper discusses the results from a series of interviews with internationally recognised designers on the topic of resonance. The significance of these results is that although designers didn’t use the term rhetoric, they described resonant design as both effective and affective – it makes an impact, “touches”, “cuts-through”, and evokes an awareness of self as a human subject. This paper elaborates on the way that the discourse of resonance in design practice is chiefly propelled by deliberative rhetoric: that the purpose of design is to exhort or dissuade through the use of modes of appeal intended to effect responses from users/readers. In conclusion, the author argues that the study of a relationship between design and deliberative rhetoric must also critique this relationship, in order to address the positions that designers themselves take up in a practice that advocates courses of action for human subjects.

 

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