Tuesday, 6 September 2011

An Ontological Bangle

This post is a draft of an introduction for a new academic paper aimed at a graphic design journal. Feel free to comment but questions on how or what next will be answered in future posts as I construct my paper.

In a recent Tweet from Nico MacDonald (a commentator on design communication, facilitation, and research) he quoted ex-BMW designer Chris Bangle’s provocative comment from a Creatives Morning lecture that “Designers are good at visualising possibilities but we are not showing possibilities to people” (MacDonald, 2011). This statement struck a chord as my current research is focused on expanding the resources of Visual Communication, through a hermeneutic visual discourse, to aid the design of better interactions. To unpack that thought further my interest lies in how Visual Communication itself can influence the design processes within Interaction Design beyond the mere artifice of skinning code.

The visual possibilities of how the interaction’s interface will look (the aesthetics of surface) is not the only point in a design process that Visual Communication design can contribute to. I wish to not only propose a thesis that Visual Communicators can and should be brought into a multidisciplinary team for designing interactions much earlier in the design process; but also to propose a new visual methodology that will demonstrate how this can be achieved. I will build an argument for the embracing of Visual Communication by Interaction Design teams as an ideal facilitator of not only behavioural change in the audience (Frascara, 2004), but also an actual contributor to the design of the aesthetics of use (Dunne, 1997).

My main thrust to this thesis is the argument that within the design discipline of Visual Communication it can and does help to reveal things “from concealment” (Palmer, 1969, p129) and this process falls within hermeneutic phenomenology. I will discuss how a fusion of Visual Communication and techniques of interpretative phenomenology can be adapted to reveal the structure of an experience, which can then be visually captured and interpreted as themes of an experience - in turn “showing possibilities to” interaction designers of how people experience interactions. This may go some way to reassure Bangle that design, especially Visual Communication, can contribute more than what is usually expected of a designer.


DUNNE, A. (1999). Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience and Critical Design. London: RCA CRD Research.

FRASCARA, J. (2004) Communication Design: Principles, Methods and Practice. New York: Allworth Press.

MacDONALD, N. (2011) @Nico_Macdonald Chris Bangle @London_CM: Designers are good at visualising possibilities but we are not _showing possibilities_ to people #CreativeMornings. Twitter [online] Posted: 9:44am Tuesday 6th September. Available from: https://twitter.com/#!/Nico_Macdonald/status/110996796733534208, [Accessed on: 6th September 2011]

PALMER, R.E. (1969) Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

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