Synthesis on the fly: a mid-class exercise

In class last night we did a quick exercise around the three readings we’d been discussing: Maurizio Vitta’s essay “The Meaning of Design,” Allan Chochinov’s “1000 Words: A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design,” and Victor Papanek’s preface to Design for the Real World. Our task was to synthesize these authors’ points into one cogent argument. We split into two groups to think it through.


sketch of synthesis process

One team came up with the following statement:

We increasingly experience the world through consumption of objects and try to exhibit our individuality through the consumption choices we make. However, industrial processes of mass production and replication have promoted a social culture of over-consumption with adverse impact on the sustainability of our lifespaces. Designers, given the capacity they possess to influence behaviours on a mass-scale, need to consider the consequences of their designs. They need to design more systems utilizing existing artifacts, products or services to solve existing problems. They can better achieve this by working in trans-disciplinary teams with designers essentially acting as facilitators to synthesize diverse perspectives.

The other team put it succinctly like this:

Design in its current trajectory is leading to a loss of meaning as well as function in the things that we produce. To remedy this we need to remove historical constructs with which we view design, and instead adopt a more holistic understanding of the things that we produce as designers.

Despite the differences in phrasing, we all seemed to be expressing the fundamental idea that to design is to accept responsibility for the effects our creations have in the world, and so requires awareness and consideration of the broader reach of our work throughout the process.