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The cyclical theory can be traced originally as far as Plato's Laws. The wide application of this model was open to eccentric interpretation and assumptions.

Winckelmann gave the reason for the fall of Greek art as that, its images had been developed in all available shapes and attitudes which made it difficult develop new ones.

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Heinrich Wolfflin is now considered as the leading challenger to the response in the cyclical theory of history. He blamed his predecessors of never systematically finding their assumptions. He had taken the creation of a broader basis on the discussions on art, a categorical framework, comparable to that developed by Kant in philosophy through his priori categories. Wolfflin made it that the changes in style came in succession and revolved in an orderly manner, which was between opposite forms of vision that included the following: diagonal depths versus parallel surface, linear versus painterly, composite versus fused, closed versus open, clear versus unclear. Wolfflin perceived that art history was more than a life of translation into pictorial terms, which attempted to interpret style as an expression of the existing mood of that age. Wolfflin's investigation in history through abstracted categories of pure visibility presupposed that the purpose of a design object was to create a visual aesthetic impact. Italso settled on the assumption that the categories were general. From this it went on that the visual properties of the object and its stylistic traits, fully expressed its meaning. As a result formal factors only were included in the analysis. Religious, moral, philosophical views, political significations and emotion and technique were preoccupied.

Alois Reigl developed a way of historical analysis which was based on an a priori structure and was the same to that of Wolfflin's in that it included a list of alternative abstract visual polarities. The categories, however, were different, the presentation of the object isolated versus being placed in space, objective versus subjective, tactile versus visual.

Although Riegl attempted to come up with a general set of categorical abstract, his analytical tools resembled, that of Wolfflin's, bound to the objects at which he aimed his analysis. Additionally, Riegl based his analysis using the same assumption as Wolfflin that the design objects purpose is to create a visual aesthetic impact. To explain the design objects creation, he developed the Kunstwollen concept following the theory of Schopenhauer that every human action is a product of forces, and that every art related to a will and that every stage of every art corresponded to an advancement of will.

Riegl asserted in explaining of how visual characteristics had changed in time, that the periodic changes in style were due to the pulse of the view of that time, and called it the Denkweise.

The stylistic analytic approach had two limitations. The first being that although the methods seemed to be generally applicable, they always remain bound in the sets of objects from the observation they emerged from.

The second limitation was its failure either to discover the actual use of design object in a certain period or to give the general occurrence of the invention of the man-made surroundings. This failure came from the failure of the field in prevailing over the restrictions of its original program which is the definition of the role of design historian in assistant to the amateur and the collector.

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