On the Existence of Design
But if it is so important, why does ethics not already exist in design? The simple answer is that ethics was not needed within design until quite recently because until quite recently the activity known as designing did not play a prominent role in human affairs.
The most fundamental question regarding design—an ontological question, as it were—is this: why is there design at all and not just nondesign? Certainly it is historically obvious that design has not always been and therefore need not necessarily be. In nature, for instance, the design process does not occur. According to modern science, nature brings forth by blind determination or random change. Hence there arise debates about whether human beings as designers are part of nature, and whether the science of nature is able to be unified with the human sciences and humanities, not to mention theology. (The idea that God created the world “by design” is a unique conflation of Greek rationalism and Judeo-Christian-Islamic revelation.) Even on an Aristotelean account, to be “by phusis, nature” and “by nomos, convention” (if not design) constitute two distinct ways of being.
To be “by design” in any possible (weak) premodern sense denotes no more than affinity with that unique human reality nomos, convention or custom, and nous, mind. Convention reified or in physical form is labeled artifice, that which has form not from within itself, like a rock or a tree, but from another, like a statue or a bed (see Aristoteles, Physics, II,1). Prior to the development of design as rationalizing miniature making one could speak only of mental intention or static composition, thought or final material product, not any special or unique physical activity. The activity was simply making.
Vernacular human activity, especially vernacular making and building, insofar as it is restricted to traditional crafts, proceeds by intention but not necessarily by or through any systematic anticipatory analysis and modeling. Plato’s shuttle maker looks to the form or idea of a shuttle and thereby does not have to design it (Plato, Cratylus, 389a). Indeed, many central societal conventions and artifacts (e. g., traditional village customs and architectures) are, although human-made, not even the direct result of human intention. (In the vernacular world, the “designing” actor is one who proceeds with schemes, deviously, improperly.) What is most characteristic of nonmodern making activities are trial-and-error full-scale fabrication or construction, intuition and apprenticeship, and techniques developed out of and guided by unarticulated or nondiscursive traditions and procedures. Reflection in relation to such making focuses more on the symbolic character of results than on the processes and methods of, say, efficiency in operation or production. To speak of design in crafts is to refer to something which is not yet, which occurs largely in unconscious or provisional forms—that is to say, design without design. Yves Deforge in one attempt to write about such “design before design” calls these phenomena “avatars of design.”
Design as a protoactivity is manifested originally in the arts in the form of sketches for paintings. The unfinished chambers of Egyptian tombs reveal that drawings sometimes preceded finished murals. But for Giorgio Vasari (1511—1574) and his contemporaries, disegno or drawing and preparatory sketches are the necessary foundation of painting. The need for arguments in defense of this position reveals its special historical character. And there are at least two observations that can be ventured about such anticipatory activity in the artistic realm. First, it exhibits a continuity with that to which it leads. The tomb drawings are even the same size as the final mural that will follow; the Renaissance sketches develop skills that are repeated an canvas or wall. Second, conspicuous by its absence is any quantitative or input-output analysis. At the time of the Renaissance, however, design also appears in a first distinctly modern form as the geometric construction of perspective, as a correlate of modern scientific naturalism, and as the precursor to engineering drawing.
-  See Hayek, Friedrich August von (1967), The Results of Human Action but Not of Human Design. In his Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Hayek uses “design” in the weak sense as equivalent with intention.
-  Deforge, Yves (1990), Avatars of Design: Design before Design. Design Issues, vol. 6, no. 2 (Spring), pp. 43—50.
-  On the last point, see Booker, Peter Jeffrey (1963), A History of Engineering Drawing. London: Chatto and Windus.