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Design and Truth

Robert Grudin, Author
Robert Grudin, Author . Yale Univ. $26 (216p) ISBN 978-0-300-16140-3
Reviewed on: 03/01/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-300-17131-0
Open Ebook - 229 pages - 978-0-300-16203-5
Open Ebook - 229 pages - 978-1-299-46357-8
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The faddish exaltation of design as an all-encompassing force reaches an apogee in this scattershot manifesto. English prof Grudin (Book ) discusses a hodgepodge of phenomena as exemplars of good or bad design, including St. Peter's Basilica, Edsel automobiles, Microsoft Word, Heidegger's philosophy, human liberty, and a Velcro doohickey he rigged up to fix his TV remote. Grudin has a cosmic conception of his subject (“the entire universe is a knowledge design”) and draws correspondingly vast conclusions that go beyond engineering and aesthetics into morality and politics: good design, he contends, expresses honesty and integrity, while bad design embodies falsehood, corruption, and abusive power. Unfortunately, these notions get lost in a rambling text that jumbles together perceptive criticism (the artist Christo's installations were “a massive multiplication of banalities”) with self-help exhortations and leadership bromides (“corporate activity on all levels should be value-driven”). There's little payoff to Grudin's inflation of design into a theory of everything beyond abstractions (“The energy field created by a given design is situated within the larger energy that is the marketplace”) and clunky analogies (“The U. S. Constitution is the design equivalent of the Jaguar XKE”). The result is a promising but ill-designed treatise. Photos. (May)

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