Author: Patricia Beirne
Design’s capacity to have tangible impact on human identity, behavior, and perception has cast the designed object as one of the strongest influences in culture throughout history. We have come to believe that it is through these objects that our notion of self and community is constructed. Too often the context of design action is not seen to give shape to our understanding of and relation to the past, present and future – an understanding embodied by the product of design vision. In realms such as politics and commerce, the impact of the object has been leveraged for decades – even centuries – to embody myriad visions for the future. But even in the most mundane of design actions, the object is a manifestation of opportunity found within systemic interconnectedness. The combination of the context and the act of design is what makes design such a powerful cultural force. The objective, not the object, is what shapes our future.
The systemic complexity of design is what makes it a critical tool for future-shaping. Yet the prevalent pedagogy of design favors disciplinary processes over design futures and stresses the object over the objective. These frameworks of design education leave out a critical strategy in creating enthusiastic, responsible and thoughtful practitioners. In order to effectively put theories of change into practice, designers must first be empowered to understand and communicate the complex interconnected systems within which experiences and objects are able to deliver a vision. In order to separate the signal, design must first recognize and understand the noise.