Designing environmental relations: from opacity to textility

Mike Anusas, Tim Ingold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
303 Downloads (Pure)


In this article we show that mainstream practices of design in western industrialised societies aspire towards a logic of form which reduces our ability to perceive the depth and scope of our material involvement with the world around us. According to this logic of form, lines or conduits of energetic and material circulation are wrapped up within opaque, enclosing surfaces which conspire to hide these circulations from perception and present the appearance of discrete, finished entities. Drawing on the philosophy of Vilém Flusser , we show that this logic stems from an imperative to cast the material world in the guise of objects. The effect is to trap humanity within a vicious circle of increasing environmental alienation. We show how this imperative is pursued across the designed world – in its products, buildings and spaces – and note how this makes it more difficult, not less, for people to follow the material traces and environmental consequences of their activity. We then propose a reorientation of the aspirations of design by way of a reimagining of form which resists the conventional objectification of the material world. Our suggestion is to consider form as textilic, the material world as comprised of energetic lines, and design as a practice of enriching the weaves that bind people and their environments. We conclude with a note concerning the interdisciplinary activity from which this article has emerged, and with it, issue a call to designers to broaden their disciplinary engagements and the scope of their creative involvement in the continual shaping of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-69
Number of pages12
JournalDesign Issues
Issue number4
Early online date8 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • design
  • anthropology
  • environment
  • architecture
  • urban design
  • engineering
  • perception
  • form

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