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Design theory refers to understanding the methods, strategies, research and analysis of the practice of design.
The essay "Ornament and Crime" by Adolf Loos from 1908 is one of the early 'principles' design-theoretical texts. Others include Le Corbusier's Vers une architecture, and Victor Papanek's Design for the real world (1972).
In a 'principles' approach to design theory, the De Stijl movement promoted a geometrical abstract, "ascetic" form of purism that was limited to functionality. This modernist attitude underpinned the Bauhaus movement. Principles were drawn up for design that were applicable to all areas of modern aesthetics.
While the theories of the Bauhaus were closely associated with a specific design attitude, the field of design theory later turned to questions of industrial planning and organization. Amongst others, the designer George Nelson, who was deeply influenced by the Bauhaus, established a modern theory of design in the United States. His book, with Erik Stolterman, The design way, offers more of a 'philosophy of design' approach. For an introduction to the philosophy of design see the article by Per Galle at the Royal Danish Academy.
An example of early design science was Altshuller's Theory of inventive problem solving, known as TRIZ, from Russia in the 1940s. Herrbert Simon's 1969 The sciences of the artifical began the more general study of design science.
With the Conference on Design Methods (1962) in the UK the Design methods Movement began. John Christopher Jones published his book on Design methods in 1969. Since then the further development of fields such as design research, design science and design thinking has promoted a wider understanding of design theory.
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