Design today is one of the widely recognized concepts of the social discourse and used in various meanings and contexts, by different professionals. Polysemy of the concept on the one hand leads to the erosion of methodological ground for design research. On the other hand design is a good example demonstrating a specific feature of contemporary sociological discourse. It is metaphoricalness, i.e. a tendency for applying ambiguous, yet informative metaphors within research field, which enable us to describe the social reality of postmodernity, turbulence, and uncertainty. The paper aims to conceptualize “design” as a sociological notion that comprises these characteristics of contemporary sociological discourse. The concept of “design” is analyzed within the relevant theoretical frameworks of Bruno Latour, John Urry, Michel Foucault, and other scholars as well as design experts. The article concludes that design is an ambiguous aesthetic-pragmatic phenomenon: it is included in production sphere and in connection with technological growth enhances its economic efficiency. At the same time design is an aesthetic category and an element of everyday practice, forming both the aesthetic dimension of this practice and the means of reflecting on it. As a result design represents a universal concept, useful for analyzing the aesthetically conditioned sociality.

Keywords: design, metaphor, postmodern, uncertainty, nonlinearity, discourse