The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 36, Issue 3/4, 2020

Design and Semiotics

Tiago da Costa e Silva
Pages 217-255

On the Edge of the Unknown
A Relational Account of Intentionality, Formativity, and Transgressiveness of the Process of Design

The present paper intends to discuss the process of design and its peculiar location at the threshold between the unknown (the insecure place with unknown order) and already established, well-accepted knowledge. The process of design is known for its catalyzing possibilities, often suggesting connections between conceptions, ideas, and solutions to problems by linking an initial formulation with the innovative and upcoming development of a project within a given design context. Thus, the process of design has the power to provide a space for playing, where experiments of thought, the testing of conceptions, the assembling of elements of these conceptions, and the serendipitous conflation of different parts of ideas can take place. Charles S. Peirce’s theory of inquiry—with especial emphasis on the systemic character of semiotics in relation to phaneroscopy, esthetics, logic of abduction and pragmatism—informs the chosen theoretical framework of this paper. Because it also emphasizes the process of discovery, Peirce’s theory of inquiry will be here mobilized to analyze, within the theory of the design process, the transition between critical predicament and an undecided—still to be formed—future. This task consists of stating in futuro the unthinkable in order to render any design project feasible.