Design isn’t just making things pretty or trendy, not anymore. Design includes neuroscience; maybe one could say it IS neuroscience. It’s your nervous system that matters now (it’s the planets nerves too). Our world has changed.
The Smithsonian Institution has this list: The Ten Most Disturbing Scientific Discoveries, third on the list is, “There have been mass extinctions in the past, and we’re probably in one now.” True or not true, what is clear is that consumer culture doesn’t work any more; it takes from the earth and returns little other than garbage; it exhausts the place we call home. The vibrancy of our planetary nervous system is fraying as our unchecked needs to consume leave us with results such as a whole Gulf that might soon be dead.
So can we continue to design just to make things beautiful, or have the latest look, or to get praise and attention from our peers? No. And, I’m not saying that those values get tossed, but that we must have other priorities first, and those include designing for us humans who are ourselves changing, and for the planet which is changing.
To design just for appearances is to miss a valuable opportunity, a paradigm shift in how we serve our humanity. Design must be inclusive, no longer can it marginalize because something is cheaper to build. Design must be efficient, no longer can it waste resources. Design must be economical, no longer can it be irreverent. Design must bring us together and foster community. Design must satisfy leaving us content and fulfilled, not empty. Design must inspire and restore our humanity in a time where we might be only steps from irreversible man-made extinction. Universal design is one way; there are many. To the contractors, architects, designers and politicians, to the baby boomers who can make these changes happen: Give me something my grandchildren will be happy to inherit.