I am currently a student at the North Carolina State University College of Design, majoring in Design Studies. My area of interest is in the confluence of Design with Anthropology and I plan to receive a Masters Degree in Art & Design with a focus on humanitarian design.
Design is a chimerical tool that empowers humanity to reshape its own existence. I believe it can elevate humanity through our intrinsic sense of altruism, or destroy us through our own rapacity. It is an instrument of great triumph and consequence, limited only by our imaginations – a reflection of our hopes and fears and discontent. But, it is only through an understanding of the designer’s own desires, biases, and limitations that the merits of this instrument can be fully realized. It is a matter of ethics versus avarice.
There is, necessarily, an anthropological aspect to design. Clive Dilnot, professor of Design Studies at the New School, states that “at the core of design is an ontological and anthropological act… which is also a meditation on and a realization of being.” (Dilnot, Ethics in Design, p8) Ethical design is that which is not designed to suit the purposes of the designer (or the corporation) but to benefit the people. It is from this place of altruism – the realization that the benefit of the user and the benefit of the designer are one in the same – that ethical design is created.
I am an ardent supporter of altruism and humanism, and I believe that these are the forces which should be driving design. “Concern for the environment and for the disadvantaged of our society are the most profound and powerful forces with which to shape design.” (Victor Papanek, Toward the Spiritual in Design, p12) This is the value that resonates with me, and the reason why I feel the need to focus my designs towards humanitarian ends. I believe that art and design should elucidate whole truths of life and emotion and the human experience, that what matters is “the human implications of the situation: its capacity to hold promise for how we can better… live our lives.” (Dilnot, p5) But, this endeavor must be sown from an understanding of our own biases, limitations, and desires. For without that understanding, the designer remains susceptible to his or her own failings, taken in by the power of design rather than humbled by its responsibilities.