Tuesday 31.10.17
Futuristic Design History?
In the course of an imminent global catastrophe, how can we take a new direction in order to achieve a better living situation? “Wicked problems”, such as climate change, social inequalities, population growth represent great global challenges for our society. Consequently, in order to reach a solution, the value systems of the various groups or parties would have to be negotiated in a pluralistic society. However, the problem definition is often already in dispute. Rittel and Webber called this problem type inherently “wicked” (Rittel & Webber 1937).

︎ Bosch, Hieronymus (1495-1505). The Garden of Earthly Delights. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Design turn
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. “Design is planning action, striving to control its consequences” (Rittel 1987:119). 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. But before we think about a future, we need awareness of the current global situation. 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. According to Wolfgang Schäffner, “a comprehensive ‘design turn’ is taking place within the humanities, engineering, and the natural sciences, where design as a discipline connecting theory and practice in objects of synthesis is at the center of the production of knowledge”(Schäffner 2010)Tomás Maldonado wrote that the historical product designer was having the role of either as a “constructer” or as “artist”. The modern designer works as “coordinator”. It will be his task to work in strong cooperations with a group of  experts, who bring diverse knowledge in production and usage, and to coordinate these (Maldonado 1999:59). Beucker continues the thoughts of Maldonado and Lucius Burckhardt (“Design is invisible”) by regarding “design as a discipline that is able to moderate within multidiscipline areas of […] development. But with the focus on mediation the designer gains the responsibility to structure projects and give methodological advice” (Beucker 2004:185).

Design democracy
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”. 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). 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 1996). People have an image of what design is: the shaping of the objects that surround us. What is democratic about that? Nothing at first. Design becomes social when we see more in it than the shaping of our environment’s surfaces, beautification or luxury goods. “Today, almost everything is being designed: the climate, processes, refugee camps. But if everything is being designed, it is time to stop evaluating design solely from aesthetic aspects”(Borries 2016).

We have to see the world as a whole as the object of the design processes. Design is social because we are constantly changing the world in which we live, which leads to further consequences of these actions. This underlies Herbert Simon’s famous 1969 dictum that “everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon 1996:111).

Design unlearning
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. Furthermore are apathy and indecision hindering our perception and allow us not to offer important new ways of thinking about complex problems. Initiatives are not yet shifting peoples beliefs and values to tackle i.e. climate change itself. The primarily rationally and 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’ll expand the repertoire of our solutions. Ashby, a system theorist had said in the fifties, that wherever we have a highly complex dynamic problem system, we need a minimum of such a complex dynamic solving system. “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system” (Gall 1975:71).

How might we design with the tools of democracy and open source to foster the emergence of alternative grass-root systems? I’m hoping to somehow answer that after the following years of Transdisciplinary Design.

(Firstly published on the Transdisciplinary Design Blog as part of “Transdisciplinary Seminar 1“, durring my MFA at The New School)

Works Cited: Beucker, Nicolas (2004). Research Skills as Basis for Industrial Collaboration in Design Education. In: The Changing Face of Design Education, 2.-3.9.2004, S. 185-192.

Borries, Friedrich (2016). To Project the World: Towards a Political Theory of Design. Suhrkamp Verlag.

Folkmann, Mads Nygaard (2013). The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design (Design Thinking, Design Theory). MIT Press.

Gall, John (1975). Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially how They Fail. Pocket Books.

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

Maldonado, Tomás ([1958] 1999). Neue Entwicklungen in der Industrie und die Ausbildung des Produktgestalters. In: ulm, Vierteljahresbericht der Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, Nr. 2. (Republished in: Volker Fischer/ Anne Hamilton (Hg.). (1999). Theorien der Gestaltung, Grundlagentexte zum Design. Frankfurt am Main: form Verlag, S. 53-63.)

Rams, Dieter. Dieter Rams: Less and More – Interview (5:35). http://news.gestalten.com/motion/dieter-rams. Gestalten Verlag, 2009. (Last visit: 10/19/2017).

Rittel, Horst (1987). Das Erbe der HfG?.
In: Lindinger. Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, S. 118-119.

Rittel, Horst W. J., Webber, Melvin M. (1973). Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Institute of Urban & Regional
Development, University of California.

Schäffner, Wolfgang (2010). The Design Turn: Eine wissenschaftliche Revolution im Geiste der Gestaltung. In Entwerfen, Wissen, Produzieren: Designforschung im Anwendungskontext, edited by Claudia Mareis, Gesche Joost, and Kora Kimpel, 33–46. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.

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