Thursday 19.10.17
WE Manifesto
In the course of an imminent global catastrophe, how can WE take a new direction in order to achieve a better living situation? Issues such as climate change, social inequalities, population growth represent great global challenges for our society. Technology is everywhere. It is hard to imagine our lives without all the devices, machines and systems that we encounter every day. At the same time it is hard to imagine the exact role and importance of these technologies in our lives.

It is obvious that designers have contributed to the status quo. The patterns of consumption of people were shaped by design for capitalism and innovation. Anyone who designs should think about the effects of their design and should question themselves. In order to change the existing situation, it is necessary to formulate an attitude and form a future from the combination of known and experimental strategies. We owe it to the present and future generations. But before WE think about a future, WE need awareness of the current global situation and should not ignore it any further. Design has become a discipline that does not set out merely to shape our material culture. Design today should address social rather than corporate change.

"Less and more." Dieter Rams started to intensify his ideas of design in rules since the mid of the 1970. The following years he developed them further to his ten principles of good design. Rams comprehends the theses as useful for orientation and understanding. At the same time, Rams says that good design is in constant development - just like technology and culture. "We do not need new products but new structures that change behaviour" (Rams 2009).

WE have enough technical innovations.
WE have enough digital innovations.
WE need cultural innovations!

Innovative change will not come from a single new program, service, product or app. WE think it comes from multiple interventions that activate networks, shape professional practices, and dismantle systems. It results from crossing boundaries between digital and analog, fiction and reality, research and practice and most importantly between disciplines.

WE want to create new areas of operation and to work for the general good without collective egoism. WE want to help to develop the special feeling of moral responsibility that WE as designers need so much. The well-known design philosopher Victor Papanek has already expressed these ideas, and in the past discovered many problems that are all too pertinent today.

Herbert Simon’s famous, "transferring existing situations into preferred ones", is probably the widest present definition of design. This definition has been quoted readily – although it is actually contrary to most quite narrowly defined study programs and to what professional designers actually practice (Simon 1969).

WE don't do the right things.
WE do the things right!

WE have to design for the survival, for the society and for the self to be able to imagine new forms of living together as opposed to the lack-of-alternatives ideology (Borries 2016). Design can do more than seduce people to buy things. Design is also more than the generalised conception of beautification and luxury goods. "The goal-oriented design process for the optimisation of a starting situation is the core benefit of design" (Kobus 2012:19) says Michael Hardt.

People have an image of what design is: the shaping of the objects that surround us. What is social about that? Nothing at first. Design becomes social when we see more in it than the shaping of our environment’s surfaces. “Today, almost everything is being designed: the climate, processes, refugee camps. But if everything is being designed, it’s time to stop evaluating design solely from aesthetic aspects.” The WE design theory is not aligned with existing disciplinary boundaries, but instead toward fundamental socio-political questions (Borries 2016).

WE need a new theory of design.
WE have to cross disciplines with design.
WE is a social theory of design.

WE sees the world as a whole as the object of the design processes. Design is social because WE designers intervene in the world within their actions. They are constantly changing the world in which WE lives. WE intervenes in the world in order to improve conditions of life.

"Design is not an art and the designer is not necessarily an artist," asserted Tomás Maldonado, tutor and later Rector at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, on 18 September 1958 at the World Fair in Brussels. He revolutionised the widely held view, also represented by the Bauhaus, that design is an artistic activity, and so changed fundamentally our understanding of the act of design.

The development of personal problem-solving competence requires not only the knowledge of appropriate methods, but above all the willingness to "unlearn" one's own habits and preferences and to break new ground. The primarily rationally analytic thinker will perhaps find ways to expand his creative, intuitive competence, creative gifted will benefit more by the practice of more structured, analytical methods. The sooner WE will enlarge our spectrum of perception, WE expand the repertoire of our solutions (Sabota 2007).

The rapid technical advances being made increasingly demanded from designers well-founded scientific knowledge and methods, leading Tomás Maldonado to plead for such subjects to be added to the very artistically oriented design education of the time. Tomás Maldonado inspires WE in the achievement of our aims: "Partnership, whose members share the same intention: to give the human environment structure and content."

WE like talking about culture. WE focus on social values, established practices and stabilising institutions. The inevitability of the social other gains the face of the inevitability of community, society and the state. "Social systems are differentiated and realised, one would like to say with Norbert Elias, in a process of civilisation emergence gains and an expansion of the possibilities with simultaneous reduction of complexity. […] In essence, however, the argument points to the fact that the social can only be meaningfully conceived as an ubiquitous inevitability (Klein 2009).

WE see, as do many others, a growing pressure on the ecosphere, an excessive squandering of resources, social inequality, and overwork for most people.

It is our goal to create new fields of activity that are not motivated by turnover; WE hopes to raise people’s awareness of social, ecological, and moral design.

WE are you,
WE are us,
you are WE!

(Part of “Design for This Century [D4TC]”, durring my MFA in Transdisciplinary Design at The New School)

Works Cited: Borries, Friedrich. Weltentwerfen: Eine Politische Designtheorie (To Project the
World: Towards a Political Theory of Design). Suhrkamp Verlag, 2016.

Klein, Louis: Competitive Social Design. Die Soziale Frage der nächsten Gesellschaft. in Dettling, Daniel: Schüle, Christian (Hrsg.): Minima Moralia der nächsten Gesellschaft. Standpunkte eines neuen Generationenvertrags. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2009.

Kobus, Joachim; Hardt, Michael B.: Erfolgreich als Designer – Designzukunft denken und gestalten. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2012.

Rams, Dieter (2009): Dieter Rams: Less and More - Interview (5:35). (Last visit: 10/19/2017).

Simon, Herbert: The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969.

Sobota, DI Friedl (2007): Blockaden im Problemlösungsprozess. (Last visit: 10/19/2017).

Papanek, Victor: Das Papanek-Konzept. Design für eine Umwelt des Überlebens. München: Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung GmbH, 1972.