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The idealism of design?


I am an idealist. I am also a perfectionist. My ideas are often fanciful, to the point where I’ve been accused of not living in the real world. Yet the real world—the prevailing state of things—is chaotic and in disarray; in short, the antithesis of my utopian ideal.

I believe design affects everything we see, hear, touch, taste and smell. It influences who we are, how we feel and what we think. It has the capacity to inspire change in people for the better: individually, socially, physiologically, psychologically and emotionally. In reality, design plays an integral part in our relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

I often wonder if we are losing focus on what’s really important, on the things that truly matter: our health and happiness, friends and family, well-being and quality of life. To what extent are mindfulness and consciousness a part of the present? The sad fact is that we have lost any sense of present—of being present—and have succumbed to a new world order. We live in a perpetual state of imagined necessity, where something is always essential until it is superfluous.

Today, materialism is encouraged and fuelled by short-term gains; we are greedy consumers, always desirous of the next new thing. We are slaves to capitalism, effectively disempowered, the control taken from our hands. We might think we are making informed choices, but as malleable beings we succumb to the influence of big design business, whose drive for profit surpasses all reason. It’s a world of more and more, with things created for the sole aim of making money. Our global system is one of uniformity and commodification; in essence everything becomes the same. And we, the easily influenced consumer, impetuously buy–throwaway (and repeat).

More and more, we need to stop, breathe, ponder and reflect. We should question our decisions and think about our ideals. We might, for example, move to cherish and celebrate that which is real and tactile, rejecting the current digital status quo. At the same time, we should spurn the influence of governments and politicians—do they, in actuality, understand that design and creativity have the potential to impact constructive, societal change? I believe in apolitical empowerment, where creative people, intellectuals, cultural institutions and grass-roots movements have the power to bring about systemic change. I believe good design is an integral part of this change.

I believe in the power of good design to challenge uniformity and conformity. In the late 1970s, Dieter Rams—the famed industrial designer—was concerned by the state of the world around him, seeing ‘an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises,’ (Source: Vitsœ). As a contributor to this world, Rams questioned whether his own design was good design, and expressed the answer in his ‘ten principles for good design’. A veritable Ten Commandments for design, Rams’s principles remain pertinent today.

Returning once more to my propensity for idealism, I resolutely believe in the idealism of design. We should think about how and why we live with design, how we curate our spaces and as a consequence, our lives—mind, body and soul. I’m of the opinion that we should invest in better design. Good design is made to use, to find pleasure in, to care for and ultimately, to last for many generations to come. By making better design choices, we will challenge the self-indulgent consumerist status quo and eventually effect change. And why? To make our world a better place for all.