new design vocabulary

Many contemporary design projects rely on the strength of a text to communicate themselves, yet writing is not considered an integral part of a designer’s practice. At the same time, the role and mandate of ‘design’ is becoming more and more complex and broad-ranging. If design is supposed to help save the world, it is vital that designers are able to communicate how. Design language needs to evolve along with design. We need to find a new vocabulary and ways of expressing what we are doing and how we are working and thinking. This means we need to adapt our written language to suit our endeavours and let
our project descriptions be precise, communicative and accessible.

In an analysis of graduation project texts from the Design Academy Eindhoven, the four most frequently used words in the last four years have consistently been design, use, new and object. As the designs have become more intelligent, more complex, more world-oriented and further removed from outdated notions of design being solely for the production of functional objects, the descriptions have not developed in the same style.

Why does our vocabulary not match the range and breadth of our work? Why is our design language not evolving in tandem with our design? Why does the ‘language’ of design not match this shift in endeavours?

There is a growing burden of responsibility upon designers today, and we need a more proactive, radical and political design language to meet and fight the challenges of our times. To really reach the audiences we strive to make and create for, we must work on our vocabulary and stop recycling the stale, replaceable words and phrases we have been re-using for years. We can do better than reshuffle empty shells of descriptions that may appear to produce the right noises but reveal nothing to the reader or listener upon closer examination. Design language – the communication of design – has to match what we are producing better and more precisely. We need to think and express ourselves in words as well as pictures.

Visitors were asked to choose one of the new texts and then shape
their idea of what that text is describing in modelling clay, expressing in form what they understand by the information given. Their designs start with a description and end with an object. So the experiment not only focuses on pinpointing the public’s understanding of standardised words and phrases, but also on the subjectiveness of individual interpretation.