Don't just do good design, design good.
Design can achieve much more for our society, than to seduce people to use money which they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. Design is also way more than just the assumed beautification from artefacts: this profession is called decoration. It’s not the nicely designed product which makes us buy things, but the aim driven design process for the optimisation of a current situation. This is the core usage of design: design describes the way from a starting point to a goal. The result of design is therefore always taking place in the future. The purpose of the direction requires to know where we are coming from. When we look back, we’ve been far closer to a possible future, than we are today. In some things our society did move dramatically into the wrong direction and did not arrive at the point, where we originally wanted to go.
On our way we did forget to include future generations in our thoughts. Over a longer time now we don’t think in natural cycles, not even linear. Our thinking became punctual. The upcoming tasks which we will have to face as designers are immense, but solvable. For this, we are not in any way appropriately educated nor we are in the position to propose a solution. World-wide there is a growing group of designers who started working on those issues and are able to start offering positive results. We call them (for now) Service Designers. But before we answer the question, where we want to go, we have to be clear about, why we want or have to move away from our current position and what we have to expect at the goal.
One example: the modern human is the only living creature on this planet which produces environmentally damaging trash. In the history of human kind the throwaway society is a unfortunate, but reparable mistake. “We designed ourselfs in our global problems, so accordingly we are able to design ourselfs out of it.” (John Thackara, In the Bubble)
Designers of the ‘Old Design’ have eager contributed to produce the most beautiful trash in the world. The Designers of the ‘New Design’ (Service Design) have now to go back, to create a harmonically symbiosis between humans and their environments. But we have lost the ability to foresight and to provision for one’s future. And “in the end this will destroy the world” as Albert Schweitzer proclaims it in a dark and resigning prognosis.
We are living in a time, where we in no other time in the history of mankind are constrained to make a change of direction to avoid a global disaster. We have to face this task and all those new designers are going to play an important role, because they are bringing a new thinking structure, methods and tools to the table. It is not the time to sit in an ivory tower and to envision illusions of an artificial world made out of colorful images and beautiful artifacts. We also have to admit that designers played a fatal role during the last decades: our consumption behavior today has addictive tendencies; and that the from the design influenced ‘newness-delusion’ in not significant degree is responsible for the current situation.
Coming from an communication and advertising background I have to admit that my personal perception of design drastically changed: from a ‘pride’ working within this ‘machinery’ to come to the point, where I self-critically question the value of the work I deliver. Hence the decision to become a Service Designer. But it is not just my self-perception, there obviously seems to be a problem of how other industries are appreciating the value of our work (or not): “Marketing is blind per se.” (Peter Ulrich).
The holistic marketing oriented development process engrosses the design and despites designers ability to visionary think and do alongside a ethical based design value system. This ends in a situation, where the for the ‘seeing’ responsible designers have been led by prewritten visions, created from blind bandits (Marketeers). “If we do ethical correct design, we are not going to get work. What are we going to live from?” This question is equally eligible as superficial. The more we are focusing on these and other relevant topics, the more we come to a conclusion, that in the design of a good future - especially in ethical and sustainable design - lies an incredible market potential. The possible and necessary redesign of the future of humans on this planet is an important design task as Herbert Simon precisely describes: “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”
The prognosed development of the design economy is not a wishful thinking, but a societal necessity. The design of the future is the biggest market in the current history of design. David B. Berman describes in his book Do Good
Design that the future of the world today is our common design project. He continues: “the same design which is representative for mass consumption, contains the force to repair the world.” So therefore: Don’t just do good design, design good.
Image source: Lais de Almeida’s ‘The Ladder’, London 2014. A pop-up project re-imagining the ways the community can access work and income. Turning needs and challenges of the community into work opportunities for its members.