Bridging the epistemological divide between disciplines



Design Education Strategy


  • multi-disciplinary education, cultural influence, design philosophies


A position paper based on philosophical issues around the design disciplines

This position paper is to be considered as a working paper that focuses on the topics listed under the DEFSA FLUX conference’s heading Community and Social engagement. As all the listed subheadings interrelate and speak to each other the authors find it appropriate to enter into a discussion whereby these subheadings will be juxtaposed with some broader multi-disciplinary intellectual requirements identified by the international academic community. The main thrust of this discussion is centred on the academic position that the philosophy of design could facilitate bridging the epistemological gap between a range of interrelated disciplines. Not only will the design discipline be enriched but collaborative research possibilities could be identified and opened up.

The various subheadings will be clustered together. Speaking about design for development presuppose that the designer will acquire sensibility about culture (the human factor). By positioning the debate within the developing world (in this case South Africa and India) the issue of indigenous knowledge systems becomes prominent. To practise design in the developing world raises concern about sustainability and pre-suppose the adoption of universal design sensibilities.

The intellectual advantage of the design theorists engaged with disciplines such as philosophy and the social sciences will form part of the discussion. The discussion deliberate on a perceived need to shift the design theoretical debate towards recognition and inclusion of current third world social issues - these inform not just the products we design but recognise the users as important collaborators in the design process. A number of new fields of research that emerged in the past century impinged upon and shaped the notions of design as a creative activity. The authors would like to demonstrate how
Public Understanding of Science (PUS), as an example of such a new field, contributed to the development of indigenous technologies.

Extensive collaborative, cross-cultural research since 2000 between South Africa and India, embarked upon by the authors and a research team under the leadership of Gauhar Raza from the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), CSIR, New Delhi, India provides the intellectual environment to the presentation and underpins the philosophical nature of this deliberation.

DEFSA conferences

DEFSA promotes relevant research with the focus on design + education through its biennial conferences, to promote professionalism, accountability and ethics in the education of young designers. Our next conference is a hybrid event. See above for details.

Critical skills endorsement

Professional Members in good standing can receive a certificate of membership, but DEFSA cannot provide confirmation or endorsement of skills whatsoever. DEFSA only confirm membership of DEFSA which is a NPO for Design Education in South Africa (