The Designer's Task within Society

The theories of Bernays, Buchanan, Chochinov, Papinek and Vitta can be used to inform the designer’s role in society. The rallying cry of Chochinov (“stop making crap”); the power handed to the designer in Bernays’ reminder that public opinion is malleable and can be shaped; Papanek’s admonishment to stop creating sexy objects and tackle bigger problems; Buchanan’s definition of those indeterminate, bigger problems as “wicked problems;” and Vitta’s observation that participants in contemporary society become so defined by the goods they consume they lose their personhood, all amount to a hefty charge to the designer. As students, we are learning how to approach the world with an informed eye and create responsible change. We are learning at AC4D how to use the viewpoints of theorists like these to approach our work in the world responsibly.

These theories form a spectrum of thought a designer can pull on as they work. If the motivation behind making something doesn’t consider the viewpoints put toward by these five thinkers, perhaps it isn’t worth making at all.

When you pull together their varying viewpoints it coalesces into the following charge for the designer and their engagement with the world:


There’s a lot to consider. And based on the sheer number of people currently influencing the world who are not considering these factors, it’s vital for designers (yes us, the glue between the disciplines, the medium between the mediums) to approach problem-finding and problem-solving with this dose of added responsibility.