Masturbatory "Design" semantics
Every design commentator, author, critic or blogger must at sometime pose the question “What is design?” and then give us his personal answer. It’s like the discovery of masturbation: everybody does it at some point (some later to the game than others), and everybody thinks they’re the world’s first. How amazing! Only most people have the good taste to not talk about masturbation in public.
But the the answers to the question “What is design?” are pure intellectual wanking.
The answers typically contain some fluff about communication, communication, effectiveness, and context. Solving problems. Fulfilling needs.
I call Bull. And shit.
These are explanations that are founded in insecurity. These are the justifications of someone who knows his job looks very much like “applying the pretty”—superficial, unnecessary, un-elemental, subservient. These are a pathetic attempt to cover up the giant chip on one’s shoulder with a beautiful, but practical and durable and eco-friendly and free-trade, handmade alpaca wool scarf.
But that’s not design. That’s defensive waffling.
Design is not some lackey to be bossed about by problems. Design is not for communicating effectively what nobody wants to hear anyway. Design is not about conservative incrementalism. Design is not about fulfilling needs, because in Western society today, what needs go truly unfulfilled?
What need did the iPod fulfill? What burning thirst did it slake?
What does the famous Starck juicer communicate?
The beautiful things in your life, or that you want to have in your life, are they effective? Contextual? Do we not love both beautiful things that don’t work, and ugly things that do?
Design is not a list of enterprise-friendly attributes delineated in a consulting brochure.
Design is the art of possibility. Design is the art of asking what can be.
Then listening, very carefully, to the small, quiet answers.
And the screaming, deafening ones.