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Intellect and intuition are design partners

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I read with interest Kathryn Moore's article 'How real is visual thinking?' (aj 29.7.99). She challenges the widely held concept of visual thinking in which the mind forms and works with images perceived, or imagined, and sets this direct apprehension of images in opposition to an intellectual consideration of design which, it is asserted, is the actual reality.

In a world increasingly concerned to make everything capable of being formulated in words, the problem for teachers of design (whether in fine or applied arts) to justify subjective judgements in aesthetics, is a growing problem in practice, although it has long been one in theory.

However, in this article an attempt to solve this problem has been made by denying the validity of what most people concerned with design in its various forms actually experience; that is, visual thinking which bypasses intellectual thought at least at the time. This thinking may often, of course, follow intellectual analysis of the functional requirements which have led to the design being sought and rational consideration of suitable material, structure etc, as appropriate. After the visual design has been achieved, often by a creative leap, the mind may, and generally should, examine the design rationally, checking that it has achieved its purpose and that, aesthetically, it is sound in terms of its proportions, colour and texture. If looking at a design by someone else (eg if wishing to criticise a design), one would apply similar rational considerations as well as taking account of one's feelings about it - does it look right?

The article states that we actually think in the same way whether we are designing a building or pricing its bills of quantities. 'Pragmatism,' according to the Oxford Concise Dictionary, is 'a doctrine that evaluates any assertion solely by its practical consequences and its bearing on human interests'; then surely we should accept any method or approach, based upon intellectual reasoning, experience or visual thinking, provided that it achieves useful results.

Much work on the structure of the brain has been done in recent years and its two 'halves', left and right hand, with their differing attributes and functions. It surely justifies a recognition of both the intellectual and intuitive aspects of design and indeed of life itself.

G J Fisher, County Durham, DH8

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