We're Getting Too Comfortable With Discomfort: Exploring the Role That "Bad" Design Plays in Homogenizing Our Society
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
Prof. Michael Gibson
Associate Professor, Communication Design, School of Visual Arts, The University of North Texas