Within this project (Toolboxes and Treasure-chests), we define "design" as:
The creation of an element, environment, or experience to affect a "user" in some way.
The distinction between elements, environments, and experiences is immaterial to the discussion but widely made. The "user" is any group(s) or individual(s), including, or possibly limited to, the creator.
Design theory is then:
An explanation or view, presumably systematised, of the (abstract) principles governing design.
Although these definitions are fairly safe, and won't (likely) get us in trouble, they aren't of much use in explaining what it is we want to do in the thesis. So, our qualifications and expansions are as follows:
Normally designs attempt to satisfy the various needs of the user. Needs include; physical, aesthetic, spiritual, mental, and non-traditional "needs." These non-traditional needs can include the need for frustration and/or challenge (sadism).Note#2
The "user" in "pure art" is often limited to the creator alone, an abstract concept, or a non-corporeal entity (a God, ghost, djinn, etceteras) this does not alter the basic definition.Note#3
We limit discussion of design theory to the question of the generation, critique and appreciation of form.
The last restriction prevents the discussion from assuming titanic proportions, and avoids discussing swaths of hotly contested theory which are often of little use to the designer. The goal of the project is to create a useful tool for the practising designer, and a suitable platform for discussing more hotly contested theories.