We're Getting Too Comfortable With Discomfort: Exploring the Role That "Bad" Design Plays in Homogenizing Our Society

Prof. Michael Gibson
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Designers are responsible for how hundreds of millions of homes, cars, food products, garments and web pages look, feel and function. We invent and distribute the things that inform and influence how most of the people in the world literally engage in the process of living, yet most of the world's populace remains unaware of how our decision-making impacts so many of the seminal aspects of their daily lives. As designers, we not only know how make components and systems and communities that actually work, we also know how to make particular groups of people want to use these things, participate in them and own them. We create and disseminate the stuff that people consume, or that they desperately aspire to be able to consume, from sport utility vehicles to suburban housing to fast food packages for children. As we do this (and we do it exceedingly well), we catalyse the social, economic, political and cultural forces that instigate and facilitate worldwide societal change: we make what people want, whether they need it or not, and it is when we use our unique array of skills and sensibilities to create things that predominantly meet artificial rather than real needs that we engage in "Bad" Design. Bad Design is not ugly, nor is it kitsch: it is driven by decision-making that values aesthetics and saleability over usability and capability, and information acquisition for its own sake over the objective assessment of knowledge. It has contributed enormously to world crises such as global warming, childhood malnutrition, and our already disastrous reliance on oil, and most people (including designers) remain unaware of its real impact. Overcoming the effects of Bad Design begins with introducing design thinking and design literacy as a fundamental component in any educational forum, from Kindergarten through the doctoral experience.

Keywords: Design, Process, Decision-Making, Ideation, Bad Design, Invent
Stream: Aesthetics, Design, Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness, Teaching and Learning, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: We're getting too Comfortable with Discomfort

Prof. Michael Gibson

Associate Professor, Communication Design, School of Visual Arts, The University of North Texas

Michael Gibson is an Associate Professor in Communication Design at the School of Visual Arts at the University of North Texas. He has held this tenure-track position since August of 1998, was tenured in 2002, and is now in his eleventh year of teaching design at the university level. He holds a BFA in Visual Communication Design from the Kansas City Art Institute (1985) and a MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Michigan (1993). Professor Gibson has been a principal in the design consultancy of Gibson Clarke Design for Visual Communications since August of 1987, and has designed and creatively managed the production of a wide variety of printed and interactive material for clients such as Houghton-Mifflin Co., the Mead Corporation, the William F. Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design of Milwaukee, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and several recording artists and small businesses. Professor Gibson believes that design should be a positive, catalyzing force in the contemporary university research environment because the decision-making processes that drive design are, in and of themselves, essential forms of research. He also believes that designers are uniquely positioned to engage in interdisciplinary research because of the necessarily collaborative nature of so much of what now constitutes professional design practice: without design, well-intentioned information cannot be effectively delivered much less understood.

Ref: H05P0489