Towards Contingency: How Design Literacy Empowers Pluralistic Worldviews and Enhances Transitional Design (Abstract)
Dustin Jessen & Sven Quadflieg, 2023
The word “literacy” has come to be used to describe a wide range of competencies, including design literacy – a term that, despite its presence in design discourse, is still characterised by a certain fuzziness. In this paper, we explore this highly discursive theoretical field in order to gain a more nuanced and expanded understanding of the topic. In doing so, we argue that these divergent positions are also due to the ambiguity of the term “design”.
We understand design as the perpetual de- and reconstruction of the world, as a way of worldmaking, both physically and conceptually. Thus, design literacy can be understood as a way to perceive traces of design and its processes, to perceive the world as contingent: a circular cognitive process of recognising that something – if not everything – in our cultural pluriverse is designed, understanding how it was designed and that it can potentially become the subject of design again and again. In our paper, we emphasise the contingency of design – and the ethical level that can arise from understanding the possibility of a different design.
Ultimately, our aim with this paper is to emphasise that design literacy is a crucial competence for encouraging pluralistic perspectives and initiating transition processes, as it helps to acknowledge the temporary necessity but long-term non-necessity of things (which particularly includes the transitory nature of one’s own creations).