During my first semester of the course, one of the things we had to do at the end of the first week was, in our own words, define to someone in the business world what exactly DA is. 6 months later, and my definition has changed.
The common definition is basically that DA is “The use of information garnished from the user experience to inform the design process.”
It’s my belief that this is the easily understandable and friendly face of DA, but it’s not the whole picture. For DA to be truly valuable and sustainable in the long term, it has to focus not on the ‘user experience’ but instead, the ‘human experience’. DA is the counterpoint to marketing. Whereas marketing is often tapping into the base of the human experience, exploiting ‘opportunities’ though a complex system of tapping into peoples fears and insecurities with the goal of maximising ROI.
DA on the other hand acknowledges the human experience and all it’s negatives and positives, but choses instead to focus on the positive aspects of what it means to be human, but also recognising in the cold light of day that the ‘user’ is not the be-all-and-end-all of the interaction between design and people, and that people have some fundamental flaws which we must actively discourage if we are to have any sort of future worth living in.
Now, I realise there is the potential of this concept coming across as a bit sanctimonious and risks the possibility of continuing the trend of my generations’ tendency to think of design as the ‘god-like ability to create stuff’ and the consumers of ‘design style’ to feel justified in their rampant consumption.
But the elephant in the room is simply this. If we all agree that things cannot continue as they are – and it’s clear that the Western lifestyle is unsustainable and that there is 3 billion Chinese and Indians dying to be just like us – then we need an entirely new value system and a lifestyle that is going to be sustainable for the majority of people on the planet. So this begs the question, “Who’s going to instigate this change?” The marketing and comms people? Big business? The banks? Nah, I don’t think so.
So, someone has to drive this change, and in my 40 years on this planet, I can’t see how it can come from any other sector except design. For me, this is the first stepping stone. I feel like I’m in the right sector, and now, I have to figure out how I can assess the current state-of-play in terms of what DA is and how it can inform the world, and what I can bring to the table.
The first step for me is ‘de-industrialisation’. More on that later.