If there isn’t a war inside your head you are in trouble. The art of cultivating inner voices maybe a sign of madness to some but for artists and designers it is a necessary form of creative turmoil. Howard Jacobson, the writer and critic said in a recent article on LS Lowry, the painter that inner dissensions are a vital spur to self development. By way of this I surmise he means going beyond the clichés of style and straight design issues to exploiting self doubt and the craggy edges from the hinterland of psychology and cultural history.
The way of giving design vitality is, rather than jogging along with the certainties of function, ergonomics and stripped down aesthetica, to go risky and push to the point of discomfort. After all you have to teleport yourself into newness so you might as well take it a stage further.. But it’s no use challenging a client with a cutting edge design unless you have had that inner dialogue. Gravitas comes via confidence, borne of preparation and meditative analysis infuses your argument with depth, gives your story a rich narrative. A visit to an unfashionable architect’s building, reading an obscure tract in Praise of Shadows, struggling with a dystopian novel, making a foray into an-edge-of-design topic like the role of mess or philosophy of maintenance or simply trying out practical ideas by trial and inconvenient error – all these mini journeys even frustrated ones count.
There is no substitute for depth and authenticity and that is achieved through a combination of curiosity, experience, courage and a wide band width of interest. Design more than some other professions is about the future. We need the gift of foresight because the physical world, unlike software and the world of media, hangs around a long time, is more expensive to change. How we will live in twenty years time? We need to suss out what social changes there will be. Will we be still living in houses with loads of small rooms for example? Are green issues going to change our use of space? Will changes in our behaviour be requiring separate kitchens? If not then we may no longer require architects, kitchen and interior designers but wholistic ‘interior architects’ who understand peoples emotional needs. This will this make many of us obselete.? Perhaps we might need ‘emotional’ designers who focus on human needs as much as practical ones? As is happens the science of happiness is now big news and will be available as a tool for designers through neuroscience.
So we need to go for inspiration to the fringes where writers, artists, scientists, futurists, psychologists and street wise graffiti merchants, independent thinkers and provacateurs live.. We should read not just design magazines but the New Scientist rather than design magazines, Resurgence (Green and philosophy) or books by dissidents, economists and political activists like No Logo, the text of Anti globalisation movement to Affluenza by Oliver James, the Alexander Technique by John Gray or Happiness by Richard Layard. I could go on. Take advantage of being in a profession that can justifiably investigate the savannah and the dark forests of civilisation to make the umbrella for life.. Summarise, link together, disseminate and put it to use when you draw up your next design project. Even if it only changes the colour scheme or adds a different shaped window seat you have brought your wisdom into play and society has gained from your awareness. Start that internal war now or perhaps I should call it dialogue.
Design is essentially applied thinking and not just solving the problems of measurement. It means not doing what everyone else is, challenging client’s expectations and having the skill to carryout your ideas. In this way life moves forwards, we have more fun and serve our clients better.