Essays as Design Theory

Why essayistic writing is an excellent format for design theory and design research

The ‘Exemplaire de Bordeaux’; Essays by Michel de Montaigne with his own annotations, 1588

‘Those write in an essayistic fashion, who compose their texts experimentally, who challenge and observe, investigate, query, touch, feel and reflect on the subject matter; who approach it from different angles and assemble in their mind what they see, and relate what the subject matter allows them to convey under the given conditions of writing.’ (Translation by myself.)

‘The decision [to write academic or essayistic] will profoundly affect the work to be done. And it is not a decision with regard to form only. It also has to do with content. There does not exist one idea that can be articulated in two ways. Two different sentences are two different thoughts. The decision to treat an erudite topic in an academic or lively way is the decision to treat that topic from two different angles. The arguments presented will be different, the conclusions reached will be different, and only the topic itself will apparently remain the same. The style will inform the work.’

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