Shape: Talking about Seeing and Doing

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MIT Press, 2006 - Computers - 422 pages
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In Shape, George Stiny argues that seeing shapes -- with all theirchangeability and ambiguity -- is an inexhaustible source of creative ideas. Understanding shapes,he says, is a useful way to understand what is possible in design.

Shapes aredevices for visual expression just as symbols are devices for verbal expression. Stiny develops aunified scheme that includes both visual expression with shapes and verbal expression with signs.The relationships -- and equivalencies -- between the two kinds of expressive devices make designcomparable to other professional practices that rely more on verbal than visual expression. Designuses shapes while business, engineering, law, mathematics, and philosophy turn mainly to symbols,but the difference, says Stiny, isn't categorical. Designing is a way of thinking. Designing, Stinyargues, is calculating with shapes, calculating without equations and numbers but still according torules. Stiny shows that the mechanical process of calculation is actually a creative process whenyou calculate with shapes -- when you can reason with your eyes, when you learn to see instead ofcount.

The book takes the idea of design as calculation from mere heuristic ormetaphor to a rigorous relationship in which design and calculation each inform and enhance theother. Stiny first demonstrates how seeing and counting differ when you use rules -- that is, whatit means to calculate with your eyes -- then shows how to calculate with shapes, providing formaldetails. He gives practical applications in design with specific visual examples. The book isextraordinarily visual, with many drawings throughout -- drawings punctuated with words. You have tosee this book in order to read it.

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About the author (2006)

Dagmar Kusa is a doctoral candidate in political science at Boston Universityand an associate of the Institute of Ethnic Studies of the SlovakAcademy of Sciences.

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