Like most people I sort my web bookmarks into folders so I can find them. Like a lot of people, my categories probably don’t always make much sense. The most heterogeneous—okay, the most confused—folder is labeled “design theory.” What does that mean? If I knew, the folder might make more sense.
Theory always gets designers shouting: “I have no use for theory; I work in the real world!” or “Everything is based on theory; some people are just unaware or dishonest!” You’re welcome to go ahead and shout but first what does “design theory” (or “graphic design theory”) mean to you?
Does the phrase evoke Jean Baudrillard, Jakob Nielsen, or Donis A. Dondis? Why people trust a web page, how people buy stuff, which rectangle is better, what design does to social order, who gains political and economic power—which is graphic design theory? If it’s all of those things, what’s most central to what you think of as graphic design theory?
Is graphic design theory part of design theory or part of communication theory or part of critical theory or is it so eclectic that it stands on its own?