The Design Apparatus: A Pragmatist Critique of Design Culture, Theory, and Practice


Over the past several decades, the practice of design has benefited from tremendous growth in interest and application. The expanding interest has spawned a corresponding advancement in the number of design process theories and methods. Despite design’s recent expansion, analysis of design culture – the things we think, say, and do – reveals a converging philosophical agreement. As a community of practice, we share similar objectives, promote shared principles, utilize consistent methods, and often adhere to analogous design process frameworks. A careful analysis of design discourse reveals a culture of redundancy and accepted truisms. We are largely saying the same thing. While this converging philosophical trajectory may appear to be a positive transcendence towards creating a stable, agreed upon body of knowledge, the results are concerning. The design hegemony has not only disenfranchised members of the community (Bethune, 2022), but has led to stale aesthetic and experiential paradigms that speak only to those in power. These concerns will be explored in three phases: 1) I provide a critical assessment of design culture today - the cultural norms and truisms. 2) Next, I explore the results of design culture on felt experience, arguing the current ecology has created stagnant aesthetic paradigms and community disenfranchisement. 3) Finally, I turn to John Dewey and Pragmatist Theory to share thoughts for how the design apparatus can evolve towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, one that creates more thoughtful and engaging aesthetic experiences.


James Rudolph
Assistant Professor - Industrial Design, Art, Art History, and Design, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Management and Professional Practice


Design, Design Theory, Diversity, Inclusivity, Design Practice, Design Culture, Pragmatism

Digital Media


The Design Apparatus (pptx)