Very simply, we are all connected. Everything is inter-dependent. We are all in this together.
What does this mean for design? Everything.
Most commonly we, as industrial designers, are charged with the task of designing products for consumption. These products drive economy, politics, culture, etc. and make up the built environment. We are given the task of creating the products that will make or break companies; that will shape industry and society.
So often, whether right or wrong, our products define individuals. In the United States especially, people are more often seen as what they own, rather than what they do. Everything from what car you drive, to the shirt you wear, to the cell phone you talk on – every product people purchase is a decision and is therefore an extension of themselves. Beyond creating functional solutions to problems, we design ways for people to express themselves. This is undoubtedly an important and worthwhile job. However, this cannot be the end.
In the same way that we are connected to the world through design economy and the business of design, we are also connected simply as people. We are a race, a species, a family. As designers, we must be the voice of people. There are many people in the world who have the ability to stand up on their own and who will voice their needs, but there are many more people who do not have a voice that will ever be heard in that sense. We must be their voice. We are called to be the voice of the average, the poor, the disabled, the impoverished, the sick, the hungry. This is an obligation that simply cannot be ignored. While this is a large task, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the implications of that responsibility, we must allow ourselves to be inspired by the possibilities as well.
So why? Why me? Why is this my responsibility? Because designers are connected to each other as well. I believe that designers are born, not learned. People can take all the classes and have all the instruction in the world, but at the root of it all, some people have it, and most don’t. This is not my attempt at self-glorification, simply my recognition of a gift. Yes, I will do everything I can, take classes, learn constantly, live design, to become a better designer. But that desire to grow and get better is born from the seed of passion, and this passion comes from the realization of my purpose. I truly believe that I am meant to be a designer.
It is this sense of shared passion that unites designers. Like sports fans, music lovers, food connoisseurs, we are united by a passion for design. Along with this passion not only comes a close-knit sense of community (despite the competitive nature of the design field), but also a common responsibility. A responsibility to design. It is a calling. We must continue to push the limits of form and precedents and art. We must push the boundaries and limits of design further and further to make each other better. To progress we must break through design as we know it and elevate ourselves (humanity) through this continual struggle.
Why design? Because we are all in this together.