November 12, 2012

Sentences on Conceptual Design:*

1. Conceptual designers are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.

2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.

3. Irrational judgements lead to new experience.

4. Formal design is essentially rational.

5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.

6. When words such as typography and printing are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the designer who would be reluctant to make design that goes beyond the limitations.

7. The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.

8. Ideas can be works of design; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.

9. Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.

10. For each work of design that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.

11. A work of design may be understood as a conductor from the designer’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the designer’s mind.

12. The words of one designer to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.

13. Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the designer may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.

14. If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about design, then they are design and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.

15. All ideas are design if they are concerned with design and fall within the conventions of design.

16. One usually understands the design of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the design of the past.

17. The conventions of conceptual design are altered by works of design.

18. Successful designer changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.

19. Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.

20. The designer may misperceive (understand it differently from the designer) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
Perception is subjective.

21. The designer may not necessarily understand his own Design. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others. A designer may perceive the design of others better than his own.

22. The concept of a work of design may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.

23.The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.

24. There are many elements involved in a work of design. The most important are the most obvious.

25. If a designer uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the designer’s concept involved the material.

26. Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.

27. It is difficult to bungle a good idea.

28. When a designer learns his craft too well he makes slick design.

29. These sentences comment on conceptual design, but are not conceptual design.

*Reappropriated from Sentences on Conceptual Art by Sol Lewitt, First published in 0–9 (New York), and Art–Language (England), May 1969


Inspired by John Baldessari sings Sol Lewit.