Volume 11 Issue 2 (2015): Experiential Knowledge, Expertise, and Connoisseurship
Main Articles

Metaphors in Design: How We Think of Design Expertise

Melehat Nil Gulari
Robert Gordon University Gray's School of Art
Published December 10, 2015
  • design expertise,
  • design knowledge,
  • design process,
  • discourse metaphor,
  • primary metaphor,
  • generative metaphor,
  • metaphor analysis,
  • design repertoire
  • ...More


The notions of design and design expertise are often argued about, but rarely agreed upon, by the design community. Cognitive linguists suggest that metaphors structure our perceptions and understanding, and affect the way we organize our ideas. Based on this argument, the article investigates metaphors related to design, in particular design expertise, to address how these metaphors shape our understanding of design. It examines how design expertise is represented through the use of metaphors and explores the use of metaphors as a tool to recognize, share, and acquire expertise. Metaphors examined in this article are identified through a literature review on design knowledge and skills, and interviews conducted with designers. The metaphors are analysed in a framework that identifies the linguistic roots, associated meanings, underlying theories, and their possible impacts on the design discipline. This analysis contributes to the ongoing debate on design and design expertise. It also suggests ways of improving how we communicate design expertise with communities who often do not share the same language and mindset.