Good Design is Invisible

Where I come from, Design is not seen as a ‘staple’ to life – rather, a non-sensical medium through which wealth is displayed. Design school was inconceivable and thus I went to this established Business school and obtained a ‘serious’ degree to fall back on no matter the economic situation. A strange phenomenon, to say the least, because if one looks beyond the ‘non-sensical’ – Design is actually all around us.

Look around you. No – I mean, really, really look.

From the built environment around us, to the roof over our heads, to the fabrics that clothe us, to the very objects we are sitting on, looking at, or holding right now in our hands – they have all been (guess what) Designed by someone some time ago.

Someone actually saw the existence of a ‘need’, thought about it, imagined it, planned it, sketched it, put it in to writing and drawing and actually set about building it, testing it, making it, perfecting it.

(And no, it certainly was not a process that began by picking out a random colour…)

“It all starts out from a thought that was not yet in physical existence, and through the ‘Design’ process, comes to be.” – designphilosopher

Yes, that very device you are looking at to read this post, the chair on which you are sitting, that pen you have in your hand, the microwave that magically heats up food in seconds, that little notebook, even that piece of paper you are scribbling on…

Every known human invention that brought greater improvements (though also destruction) to our lives have been Designed.

So why, exactly, has Design been downgraded to the point it is deemed unimportant in certain societies, when most of us are in fact enveloped by its resulting benefits, in so many forms?

#1

 

Parallel Dimensions Exists on Planet Earth, thanks to the Internet.

In today’s internetly-linked global village, we live parallel dimensions within a multiverse existing on our very own planet earth. Some parts of the world are light-years ahead – living in a historically, technologically and intellectually affluent material realm while others, in order to keep-up actually meant playing catch-up by means of simply scraping the tangible outcomes of the growth of the material realm of the former, ignoring the organic development of stages before.

Species at earlier stages of evolution are prematurely exposed to the triumphs of the advanced.

Where distribution of tangible outcomes (products!) is fluid between these parallel dimensions all respectively existing at differing phases of their evolution timeline, a huge knowledge divide appears. One simply cannot know what they do not know. One part of the world ends up seeing only the final object and corresponding ‘price tag’ coming from the other side of a very different reality.

#2

 

It is a Consequence of our Times: Information OD

We are bombarded daily with information of all sorts – whether or not we want it. Clicking and scrolling, and clicking and scrolling somemore – we developed skills to be able to judge ever more quickly, ever more superficially what the eyes can see, perhaps for the lack of time, and in spite of insufficient knowledge. We evaluate price tags since numbers are the quickest to compare (reviews with star-ratings come a close second).

Understandable – given it is no longer about just one store in town to head to for that purchase – we are talking about limitless options at our fingertips – and infinite options coming from every corner of the globe. But not everything has been made equal, nor can they be. How does one make up their minds these days?

Due to sheer quantity, we have started to take a lot of what we see at face-level, neglecting crucial driving factors behind. The connotations of what the eyes see cease to exist – the intellectual thought process behind products of Design disappear – some have become ‘design-blind’.

The plethora of products available these days exacerbate this ‘designblindness’ – the superficial ‘looking’ without truly understanding what we are looking at.

#3

The unique characteristic of Design: Good ones Vanish… into Thin Air

It is ironic to say the least – when something has been designed well, its user tends to forget the often lengthy and valuable process that has gone into its creation while using it effortlessly. The more pleasurable it is to use a gadget/ object/ space, the less problems we have, the less we actually think of what had gone in to its creation.

You see, Good design is invisible, we cannot see it. And.. What we cannot see, we forget. Soon, all that’s left to see – literally- is just the price tag – that gorgeous colour, the strange shape, or that precious material. The Design process ceases to exist.

When one lives in a smoothly functioning home and has ample space, the question of Design does not crop up. When one uses the superbly designed touch-gadgets of today, one simply enjoys the intuitive experience. Try going back to a gadget of the early 20th century with today’s adapted senses, and one will see how this ‘invisible’ Design has spoilt us all.

#4

Double Whammy: It’s not just Invisible, it’s also Intangible – You cannot touch it, or can you?

Whether a surface is velvety soft, silkily smooth, marble hard, unpolished stone rough… What we feel with the tip of our fingers are the product of the Design process. The process itself is an intangible, untouchable concept that some parts of the world did not grow up with – good, hardworking people like those of the Baby Boomers’ generation from my side of the world.

Design, a younger companion of Philosophy, Literature, Fine Arts, History, Languages… They all fall within the same abstract category – bearing no direct passage to financial security in modern times – and hence are simply dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ and ‘unimportant’.

When all that remains of Design is its final colour, material and price – well…

#5

Triple Whammy: Design has been awarded the status of Wealth-Indicator.

In some Worlds, Design has been awarded the status of Wealth-Indicator. It goes that Design products or services are only purchased by the affluent – as a status symbol – they can afford it. And for those who cannot – but still wanting to ‘look’ the part – happily go for rip-offs abundant which break in no time and goes on to perpetuating the cycle of “What’s great about these design products anyway?”

As a ‘Wealth-Indicator’, the Design industry is perceived as one that is riddled with volatility, and one with a perceived ‘high income elasticity”- i.e. when incomes go down (as happens during a recession) the demand for (non-sensically expensive) Design goods/ services will correspondingly or even exponentially be cut-down. As a result, those earning a living within this sector will see their incomes reduced or the undesirable loss of livelihood in the worst case scenario.

#6

Economically, it is a Volatile, Risky Industry – Stay Away! 

Hence, Design is implied then to be risky business that smart, realistic species intent on maintaining, accumulating, or elevating material consumption needs will rightly stay clear of. What is more important and relevant in our world today are Doctors, Accountants, Engineers and Lawyers – especially if one were a specialist in any of those fields! Pick any one of these vocations, and you are set for life – no matter which way the economy turns.

But if everyone is busy saving lives, engineering numbers, guessing the economy, building bigger airplanes, fighting court cases – who will make everyday lives better for these very people?

Food for thought: Why should ‘everyday’ that happens 24/7 and continues perpetually for all living beings be any less important than the instances mentioned above?

So… is Design a Staple to Life or What?

Honestly, Maslow has better ideas on life’s necessities. However, in most cases, Design, like it or not – is omnipresent in our world. Is the omnipresence of Design in a fast-paced world focused on financial security the cause of ‘design-blindness’?

Whilst being almost in-born and absolutely crucial for some, for others, Design only starts to be important when they have reached a particular stage in life, and while for some many others, remain completely and happily oblivious to its existence.

It is interesting to note that only the ‘invisible’ world of History could explain such vastly different predispositions.

The writer is an Interior Designer who has lived in multiple dimensions and now seeks to bridge the Design gap between Worlds.