Appropriateness in design

  • Wing Man, Karen MA

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


When the term ‘design object’ is used to refer to artifacts, we presuppose that they can serve mundane functions and provide aesthetic pleasure. In many cases, the visual form of a design object is a result of achieving aesthetic function and practical function. What is the relation between these two functions? In the design process, designers also strike a balance between aesthetic pursuit, utilitarian purpose and other factors, such as environmental protection. What is the balance of these aims (aesthetic aim and the non-aesthetic aims)? My research on this topic suggests that it may be useful to conceive it in terms of appropriateness. The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the relation between aesthetic and non-aesthetic functions in design objects. Another, larger and more fundamental, purpose of this dissertation is to analyze the notion of appropriateness in design through the conceptions of aesthetic value and moral value.

The findings of this research contribute to my argument that appropriateness as a property found in design objects is a balance of aesthetic value, functional value and moral value. This unique quality found in design object can be found in many successful universal designs, and it is also part of the reason why this style can prevail for decades. This research also brings two academic disciplines (the studies of design and aesthetics) together. It is something new and timely from which both disciplines could benefit. In addition, the discussion of Wucius Wong’s art, which is part of the analysis of the different functions of design objects, is an original finding which contributes a detailed understanding of Wong’s art and its relation with design concepts.

The appropriateness of design is a decision after all things have been considered in the deliberation. It is not necessarily the best and it can be ever changing according to different situations. The investigation of this topic is not aimed at finding an ideal approach to achieve the appropriateness in design, but through the investigation of the relation between aesthetic function and non-aesthetic functions, and the relation of aesthetic value, functional value and moral value of design objects to contribute architects and designers in making an appropriate decision during the design process.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Visual Studies
SupervisorRafael DE CLERCQ (Supervisor) & Suk Mun Sophia LAW (Supervisor)

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