The Philosophy of Invention

There is much written about philosophy that guides good design. And once, not too long ago, design and engineering were two separate entities that were only married at the end-product stage. But we live in an increasingly interconnected world, and there arises the need for a style of thinking that embodies the gestalt.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English (standard on Mac OS X, naturally)

Gestalt: an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.

Apple is a brilliant example of the mix between design and engineering that embodies this philosophy: the product is considered as a whole, where both its functionality and aesthetic is of prime importance. This, for me, is what good design is all about: not a simple, superficial outer-beauty, but a beauty that encompasses the whole, internally and externally.

Thus, back to my original point: the philosophy of invention. Philosophy in design is concerned with the why: “why is something designed in that way? What does the design contribute to the functionality and aesthetic, and overall user-experience?”. Essentially, there’s incessant rhetoric etched throughout the design process.

Engineering, on the other hand, is a vastly different world. It’s an efficient world, a place where the quickest, simplest route is always sourced first. However, I do feel that in an age where sensitivity to human-created objects is paramount, there needs to exist some sort of philosophy that guides future inventors and innovators.

There needs to be a sense of thinking about the gestalt. By perceiving the challenge in its entirety, there exists the possibility of providing a solution that is beautifully mathematical, scientific, and aesthetic. Engineers must ask themselves not only “how does this work?” or, “how can I solve this problem?”, but also, “why?”. Why should this solution exist – “what is the purpose of this machine?”, for example.

By understanding the purpose of our mechanical creations, we gain deeper understanding of their place in this world, and thus can better integrate solutions into our everyday life, and into a more sustainable, brighter future.

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