‘A human community that lives in a mutually beneficial relation with the surrounding earth is a community, we might say, that lives in truth. A civilization that relentlessly destroys the living land it inhabits is not well acquainted with truth, regardless of how many supposed facts it has amassed regarding the calculable properties of its world.’
David Abram – The Spell of The Sensuous.
That’s right folks, I am on a mission to find the truth.
I have changed as a designer. I have always been concerned about the human dominance of this planet, and our restless desire to use up everything it provides, but I felt as though we were on a slope so slippery that I could do nothing about it. It was too late, to big an issue.
Not the case.
There is a solution to this blinkered existence. Design. Since the dawn of time humans have been designing. The wheel was just the first of many milestones. The atomic bomb was another. One good, one bad? Maybe. The wheel allowed the mass mobilisation of man, the automobile, the Industrial Revolution and with it all the toxins pumped into the land, sea and air. That is some global damage right there! The atomic bomb causes instant catastrophe, the wheel just took a little more time.
Where am I going with this? Well, with this year of Constellation, I have been provided with the tools to think more deeply, to challenge perceptions, to consider alternative solutions. Heck, I’ve even started using words such as rhetoric and paradigm! What has happened to me? Confusion and growth. Constellation has opened up whole new avenues of thought, and with it alternative way of seeing the world, but with that has come chaos. Internal chaos. The more philosophical thoughts I have in my head, the greater my scope as a designer can be, but with it comes the difficulty of filtering the information. I won’t repeat myself here as I have covered this in various blogs in the past. Please check out my Ramblings blog posts here.
And for good measure, here are my Constellation blogs from the year.
As I said previously, where the hell am I going with this? Towards a problem.
One of the key concepts I have picked up during this year has been temporality. Things hang around; they are not just about the here and now. This is where product design lies: now. I want a product now. It needs to look shiny, feel nice, smell fancy. I don’t care how it is made, what it is made from or what damage it has done, just give it to me. I want it. Not need. Want. A huge difference. As humans we know deep down that this desire to want, not need will end up biting back. We can’t keep digging deeper holes to find the last drops of oil to make plastic which is turned into a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy which will end up being piled into a mountain of landfill. We will either fall into the hole or have to live on the landfill. Our own ‘waste’. We can recycle, right? As long as it is designed correctly, yes. But recycling isn’t free. It takes, trucks, factories, workers to turn a plastic bottle in plastic chips that are turned back into a bottle. Why not just wash the bottle and reuse it? IT’S THE SAME BOTTLE BEING MADE! There’s a design solution right there. Bottle washers. Didn’t they do this in the old days…….
Constellation has provided me the tools to do something about this. It has been translation manual that has decoded both Field and Subject. Previously, these were just separate modules we studied. Subject, was about what we are studying (Product Design), Field (who knows), and Constellation was the weird philosophical black sheep. Not anymore. I’ve always loved Constellation, but this year it has all clicked into place. With my philosophical teaching I have been able to try out some radical thinking in my Field choice, Futures. With PD, we are handed a strict brief which we must follow to the letter. Redesign something random to increase sales. With my Constellation translation book, I can now pick apart a brief and look for the holes. To find the better response, the unexpected one. The one that makes me a Considered Designer not someone who designs.
Rather than making something for the sake of it, I am now challenging the very core of the brief itself. I am searching for the truth. I have to tick boxes to satisfy the needs of the course – a whole other issue entirely – but the tick is coming from a highly considered, philosophical background. I have the argument to backup my standpoint, and my tick in the box is right on the edge of the line. With more research and reading, perhaps the tick will not need to be there at all?
Which leads us onto the dissertation preparation document and the subject for the dissertation proper. The goal is to take all of this type of thinking, jam it into my Constellation Translator and see what comes out the other end. Or, in a less mental description, I am reading more and more philosophy and design books than I knew existed and will try to formulate them into a considered essay. An essay on? Design. Non-human design to be specific.
As the opening quote alludes to, humans are the centre of this planet and have so far treated it like garbage. Or turned it into garbage, deepening whether we are digging up stuff or burying it. This cannot continue. For humans to survive, the earth needs to stay healthy. Up until now, all designed products have been designed with humans in mind. We may say we are designing a birdhouse for the birds to live in, but really it is a way to make us feel good and to stop them nesting in our loft space. What would happen if we designed for something else, not humans at all? This is my dissertation topic:
What would design be if its focus were non-human?
As I have documented in a previous blog post, I may have become a little lost in my dissertation preparation document. I have such a desire to do well, to be the best I can be and to really make a difference with this dissertation – I genuinely want to come up with a reasoned argument for change that people will listen to – that I became overwhelmed at this early stage. I took on too much. Read too much. Cast my net of influencing factors too wide. I was reading philosophy in the day, design in the evening and dystopian fiction in bed. This is not good for a restful sleep. Nor is it good for me. As I have alluded to in previous blogs, I’m sure there is something wrong with me. The more I learn, the easier my life should be as I have more ways of saying the same thing. I should be able to be concise, to deliver a key point quickly and move onto the next but I can’t. If anything, I am getting worse.
The scope of dissertation I wish to be grand, but this does not meant that I have to put everything in it. It can influence me, but it doesn’t have to be documented. This is the trap I have fallen into with my diss prep document. In an effort to get across so many different points and books that have influenced my thinking, I feel as though I may have just said things about stuff but not said WHY I AM SAYING IT. I’m not convinced I have made clear my plan of action for the future. Each of the points I raised from the literature review were documented as a series of questions along with a list of proposals as to what could be the answer to these questions, but I’m not sure I said that these will be explored further so that they can provide conclusions in the dissertation proper. I also listed a series of books and theories I wanted to look into. These would be the books that should answer the questions I listed previously. I put the information there, but I don’t think I made it clear that this was the situation. Information overload? Probably? The desire to be the best I can be? Definitely. Martyn, my Constellation and Dissertation tutor has been very supportive and has great faith in me. I really appreciate this and can’t thank him enough. I hope I don’t let him down. The diss prep document? Not clear enough. The dissertation? This will be great.
So, to sum it up: Constellation is ace. Use it as translation guide for your practice. There are hidden message in everything we do and Constellation with help you decipher them.