The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design

From Design Thinking, Design Theory

The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design

By Mads Nygaard Folkmann

A theoretically informed investigation that relates the philosophies of aesthetics and imagination to understanding design practice.





A theoretically informed investigation that relates the philosophies of aesthetics and imagination to understanding design practice.

In The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design, Mads Folkmann investigates design in both material and immaterial terms. Design objects, Folkmann argues, will always be dual phenomena—material and immaterial, sensual and conceptual, actual and possible. Drawing on formal theories of aesthetics and the phenomenology of imagination, he seeks to answer fundamental questions about what design is and how it works that are often ignored in academic research.

Folkmann considers three conditions in design: the possible, the aesthetic, and the imagination. Imagination is a central formative power behind the creation and the life of design objects; aesthetics describes the sensual, conceptual, and contextual codes through which design objects communicate; the concept of the possible—the enabling of new uses, conceptions, and perceptions—lies behind imagination and aesthetics. The possible, Folkmann argues, is contained as a structure of meaning within the objects of design, which act as part of our interface with the world. Taking a largely phenomenological perspective that reflects both continental and American pragmatist approaches, Folkmann also makes use of discourses that range from practice-focused accounts of design methodology to cultural studies. Throughout, he offers concrete examples to illustrate theoretical points. Folkmann's philosophically informed account shows design—in all its manifestations, from physical products to principles of organization—to be an essential medium for the articulation and transformation of culture.


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262019064 288 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 35 figures


  • Mads Folkmann skillfully draws on concepts from phenomenology and design epistemology to present a fundamental approach to the questions of what design is and how it works. Linking his thoughts to examples from design practice, Folkmann unfolds a broad range of theoretical concepts that are highly relevant for design practitioners and scholars to reflect on the processes, implications, and meaning of design. This book is a substantial contribution to the current discourse.

    Gesche Joost

    head of Design Research Lab, University of the Arts Berlin

  • This is an intelligent inquiry into the aesthetics of imagination and the capacity of design to create meaning in human experience. Folkmann has made an important contribution to design theory. He brings a humanistic perspective to a field where research is often reduced to one or another of the sciences. He helps to bring into focus the wholeness of the design enterprise.

    Richard Buchanan

    Department of Design and Innovation, Case Western Reserve University