What Are We Making? Arnett’s Taxonomy of Design Products

From Buckminster Fuller’s torrent of discourse, “anticipatory design” is a phrase that has stuck with me as an evocative expression of design’s inherent elements of planning. I also like it because, maybe in the context of the overall Bucky ethos, it indicates a certain virtuous conscientiousness. Academics of a more transgressive bent often use the word “speculative” to signal, and maybe excuse, a wildness of imagination about the future. 

Capital-D-capital-T Design Thinking zealots might insist that both those terms are redundant – that if you are doing Design right, the anticipation and speculation are baked right in to The Process. I can go along with that idea up to a point, and I appreciate a certain amount of methodological passion*, but I think the modifiers are useful and the reason why is that I have observed design (and Design) projects start, proceed, and conclude with varying amounts of forethought. 

Uppermost, lowercase design thinker Richard Buchanan went way back to Aristotle to identify the origins of design as the introduction of forethought to the arts: 

“Aristotle also found it important to distinguish the element of forethought 


* I get a little prickly when methodology turns dogmatic and factional, usually as a result of it being commodified in a competitive, mercenary situation. That’s a whole other article to be written. 


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