The Instinct to Alter Our World
The discipline of design is deeply connected to culture as an amalgamation of current need and traditional knowledge. As such, the products of design are tied to cultural anchors which are rooted in the soils of specific traditions and values. Because the cultural experience—the way of life—changes so drastically from one place and time to the next, the impact this has on design is nothing short of profound. In the same respect, the styles and products of design are not only reflections of the cultural zeitgeist, but can also serve as catalysts which hold a mirror up to society, allowing it to change along with changes in cultural ideology. The styles of each of the world’s cultures follows this evolutionary path. However, as disparate cultures interact, this path is altered. The future of design must take care to preserve local knowledge, rather than displace it, else we risk losing pieces of our very humanity.
Creating Sustainable Humanitarian Solutions in the Era of Globalization
The history of design discourse is often myopic, lacking a broader perspective of the political contexts underpinning its Eurocentric ideologies and largely ignoring the cultural products of non-Western civilizations. Centuries of Western colonialism have created a hierarchy so culturally ingrained that it is still apparent today, even in “human-centered design.” To create more sustainable humanitarian solutions, Western designers must be aware of the history of imperialism that is inherent when they design for other cultures. If these inherent and hidden biases go unquestioned, even the best intentions can perpetuate the long history of Western colonialism. Sustainable design is culturally relative, and we decolonize design not by telling people how we’re going to solve all their problems but by asking them what they’re doing to solve these problems and what we can do to help.