Design’s Distinction and Impact.

Reflection Week 2: Design and the Human Condition

The second class of Design and the Human Condition raised two very important questions for me about design’s distinction from art and how its impact creates a question of design responsibility.

There is no question that design impacts us in social, political and political spheres. However, the impact of design opens a discussion on a designer’s social responsibility. Does good design become invalid if it’s for an entity or cause that may have a negative impact? What if it has no social bearing at all? How is design so intricately linked with making a difference? It could be that designers are people concerned with the quality of an experience more so than other professionals. Their priority is not maximization of profit, yet about creating something that blends seamlessly into an individual’s life. One could also state that art and design, since the first caveman paintings, has served humanity by not just being aesthetically pleasing or a way of expression, but by also bettering the human experience. After all, the Lascaux cave paintings were staple in communicating information to the next generation so quality of life would be better for them.

The cavemen discovered the importance of visual information with crushed powder and rocks. An interesting question could be whether those cavemen were simply putting pigment on cave walls to pass the time, just painting what is around them without thinking about its functionality or was it a design that was thought about? Where does this boundary of art and design come from? An argument in class what that design is useful, art is useless. However, functionality is not the only thing that creates value. In my interaction design class, we touched upon human factor design. Isn’t art also taking into human factors of emotional response and trying to evoke a change and create an impact?

One argument is that what art and design differ is in their presence. Design is integrated into our existence. Someone had to design the keyboard I am typing on and creatively solve the problems of fonts, the distance between letters and the sizes of the keys. Till I actually wrote this article, I never thought about these considerations. The design was invisible to me. It was also designed by keeping many considerations and cultural factors in mind such as accessibility, human anatomy, easier communication and handling of the object. Art on the other hand screams for attention. It tries to be as visible as possible. Perhaps because it is less concerned with its effect on the quality of experience, which it leaves up to the viewers, and more concerned with the idea of expressing a perspective of an experience. Art demands attention because it tries to transport you to a different perspective, whether that is a supper in Jerusalem or a splatter of paint strokes that make you imagine your own situation. Design has a specific purpose and mostly, doesn’t make you think about what the keyboard will do. There is only one thing it can do; type.

At the end of the class, I considered how we have design thinking and theory being taught to design students, such as me, who are now thinking about what kind of designer they want to be? Design ethics maybe gaining momentum but this way of design thinking will have little power in the capitalist industries designers become a part of upon graduation. The implementation of this thinking has to transcend design and be taught to the coming businessmen and engineers for design to be elevated to the next level.


Interaction Design student at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Find work:

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