Thomas Wendt’s Design for Dasein

Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

Thomas Wendt’s Design for Dasein was an affirming book for me to read. The text sits at the interface of many of my passions: continental philosophy, design, literary theory, learning and discernment, service, embodiment.

When I was in graduate school enacting the flậneur, I read David Sudnow’s amazing account of learning Jazz improvisation,  Ways of the Hand, which was my introduction to phenomenology.  Don’t ask me why I read that book or how I came across it. At the time, I was following my curiosity. Around the same time, and thanks in large part to two remarkable seminars with Mary Bryson, I was exposed to the work of Bruno Latour, Yrgo Engstrom, Brain Massumi, Elizabeth Ellsworth, and Dorothy Smith. Towards the end of my time at UBC, I delved into the literature on education and embodiment and affect theory. (Silvan Tomkins is still my favourite thinker from affect theory in particular.) What ties all this reading together, I can now see, are concerns centred around around the design of experiences, particularly learning experiences, and the assemblage of human and non-human actants into webs of significance. Wendt reviews Heidegger’s foundational concepts on design and technology and extends his framework into some wicked, contemporary post-phenomenology thinkers and concepts like Don Idhe’s thought on multistability and the difference between objects and things. Overall, Wendt’s text has helped me to is to integrate disparate intellectual threads from my past and to point me into some new directions.

What I appreciate about this book is that contextualizes service design in relation to other design fields like experience design, user experience design, and industrial design, and it offers a critical, balanced perspective on design thinking.

Design for Dasein is  generating a lot of talk on Twitter amongst designers and researchers I respect. Others are better placed to position its contribution to design theory and practice that I. But I admire Wendt for resisting the trend in design books to focus on rational-technical, how-to methods  or case studies. Instead, Wendt has written a book that offers insights that can inform academics, design research, and practitioners alike.