Unity in design praxis, blending the needs of digital and physical worlds is aspiration of many. It is at times a hot topic of discussion as well. Many design theorists look at skeuomorphism as the obvious choice and the approach to arrive at a unified design for digital and physical worlds. As we know skeuomorphism attempts to translate the physical features explicitly into digital realm. This is subject to criticism from various corners.
My critic is not from the angle of any pristine principles, rather from the perspective of a student of nature. And I don’t make any loud claims that design is always the manifestation of truth and honesty. Design is as artificial as any form of art and exploration of truth as any kinds of science. Machine design will be largely driven by the forces of human machine interaction and reciprocal evolution. And I must say it is a misconception that the design is an explicit visual centered paradigm. Yes, it is true that visual features can quickly communicate design elements however there is a larger set of implicit design elements in every object, whether digital or physical. When you design a product or a service or an interactive experience for a commodity in a utilitarian relationship, explicit and consumer specific features are highlighted.
However this is not always true in the case of causal and natural relationships. When relationships evolve through a self organized network or a biological system, they abstract a lot of design aspects. Let us take the example of birds and their wings. Can we say that the evolution of wings in a bird is always driven by the use value alone. Of course not. Ecology also plays a role. Let us take the case of social signs and syntax in language. Can we have single design variable for describing the evolution of all the language symbols. Again it is not possible. Hence the analysis and investigation into the wide spectrum of natural and social relationships require multivariate analysis that goes beyond explicit forms.