RETWEET: Designing Culture

 Design plays a central role in cultural reproduction. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, for anyone.

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Want to hear a really pretentious definition of design? Probably not, but I have to listen to this stuff almost constantly and misery loves company, so here it is: “Giving form to culture.”

I hear people actually say those words from time to time, and it never puts me in a particularly good mood. My main beef with that definition is that after a year in a postgraduate design program and too many hours spent between stacks of anthropology textbooks, I still can’t figure out what “form” and “culture” even mean.

My other beef is that the above definition is delusional. It seems to be gesturing toward the all-too-common notion that designers have some kind of sociocultural superpower: by shaping the physical objects that mediate and regulate people’s behaviors and interactions, they are shaping society itself! It’s a classic credit-hogging move on the part of the design world’s plentiful narcissists, who would like you to believe that material culture emerges fully formed from the depths of their magical sketchbooks.

The reality is that most designers work under some pretty heavy constraints: There’s a client or employer who gives them a mandate and makes the final call on what will actually be manufactured, printed or constructed. There are precedents set by existing designs that simultaneously inspire and circumscribe the designer’s work and limit the range of possibilities that clients and users will find acceptable. Finally, designed objects, spaces and images are frequently reinterpreted and repurposed by people who have no idea what the designer had in mind. In short, design is subject to the same limitations as any other so-called creative practice, and designers are no more authors than, well, authors are.

But despite the limited influence that designers themselves are able to exert over culture at large, design as a practice plays a central role in cultural reproduction.

Read full essay here.

 

8 thoughts on “RETWEET: Designing Culture

  1. Oh My! Love it….I would style this dress with a 36″ wooden and champagne crystal neckace along with champagne pearl studs. Then I would wear CC skype bracelet to add the shine of gold! Then shoes….ooooo! These would be brown in color with vintage golden chainbows centered! So Divine!!! Fingers crossed!

  2. Thanks for your great tutorial, it helps me a lot!Although I have still some questions:- How do I customize the blog-template?I’m from Germany, and I would like to change the line “Mai 23, 2012 // by Christina // Blog // No Comments” to german language. I would also like to delete the “Blog Categories” in the sidebar.- Is it possible to show the latest blog-posts in one of the homeboxes?Thank you for your help!

  3. Oi Ju!!!Que bom q vc gostou!!!!Ah, quando viajamos, fazermos questão de deixar os todos os posts programados! Acho que é uma questão de respeito com os leitores e parceiros!Obrigada, bjs

  4. Guys,While we all equally wish for a new episode of OFAH, we all know at the back of our minds that it’s extremely unlikely.We all hope that the great John Sullivan prepped scripts well in advance of a potential come-back, and that his son, Jim, has a talent for writing.I am not so sure Jim is anywhere near John in terms of writing talent – and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

  5. I understand the anxiety but I also love your determination. As you say, you have already got a response from two agents and that is pretty impressive in itself. You are a gutsy lass and no mistake. Just keep going

  6. Cyber: non sei l’unico a trovare insopportabile la Mitchell… in certe situazioni vanno benissimo le sue 2 “espressive” espressioni, ma alla lunga stancano.Per me uno dei difetti principali di Revolution è non riuscire a rendere l’idea del disastro globale…

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  8. Leo says:

    This is just the peecrft answer for all of us

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