13.0106 visual design course?

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sun, 25 Jul 1999 21:11:52 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 106.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 21:08:14 +0100
From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@VMA.SMSU.EDU>
Subject: suggestions for visual design course?


In collaboration with a colleague in Architecture, I am developing an
upper-level, cross-disciplinary course (involving art, architecture, and
philosophy) on Visual Design.

We hope to develop a course that will provide students some foundations in
philosophical aesthetics, along with the basics of drawing, painting, and
other forms of design (in the name of conjoining theory and praxis). In
particular, I will be angling a thread of epistemology, beginning (at least)
in Plato's Republic and extending through Descartes and (perhaps) Wittgenstein
that argues that the visual amounts to an incomplete mode of knowledge that
must be complemented by other modes of knowledge (e.g., the aural, the
mathematical, and others?). In this light, student design projects will
amount to empirical tests of the philosophical arguments for the limits of
the visual as a mode of knowing. (Please see provisional course description,

I and my colleague have made tentative steps in this direction previously
with first year students as well as advanced architecture students, and
so we have some successful first steps behind us. But I would very much
appreciate suggestions for additional resources in philosophy, aesthetics,
visual design, etc. which may seem to be helpful or pertinent to our course.
(Reviewing our preliminary list of resources, below, may both give you a
better idea of what the course will seek to do, along with a sense of what
is needed to complement what we already have planned.)

Please reply to me off-list at

I will happily compile responses and re-post them to the list.
Thanks in advance,

Charles Ess
Philosophy and Religion
Drury College
Springfield, MO 65802 USA


Selections from Plato, _The Republic_; Descartes, _Meditations_; Ludwig
Binswanger (a 20th ct. phenomenologist on the differences between
aural and visual experience).

Alex Neill, Aaron Ridley, The Philosophy of Art: Readings Ancient and
Modern. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995. ISBN: 0-07-046192-9

Monroe C. Beardsley. Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present: a
Short History. University of Alabama Press, 1966.
(optional) Edward Abbott. _Flatland_ Princeton University Press.

"Visual Design: Philosophy, Aesthetics, Applications."
The course will examine theoretical approaches to aesthetics and
visual design, including classic philosophical statements (e.g., Plato's
arguments in the _Republic_ demonstrating both the strengths and
limits of the visual as a mode of knowledge and re-presentation;
phenomenological accounts of differences between visual and aural
modes of knowledge, with reference to early cultures as aural and
later cultures as visual; Descartes' discussion of mathematics and
the metaphors of architecture in attempting to establish the
foundational epistemology of modern science; contemporary
"transcendences" of the visual (e.g., non-Euclidean geometries) as
forced by developments in Quantum Mechanics and Relativity
theory, etc.). We will examine in equal depth classic and
contemporary principles of visual design in art and architecture.
A final focus of the course will be students' learning how to apply
these principles to express concrete and abstract ideas in visual
media - photography, painting, computer-generated graphics
(including Web-based materials), etc. - coupled with _philosophical_
Project Statements which provide both conceptual background
(including references to the literature studied in the course) and
discussion of the project's intentions, strengths and limitations
encountered, etc. The course will thus stress classic liberal arts
models of textually-oriented research and learning (including emphasis
on writing as a way of exploring and re-presenting important ideas)
in conjunction with representative pedagogies, insights, and methods
of art and architecture.

Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>