Modernity offered me a choice: become a salty, old designer or offer a solution. I could contribute to the noise or search for clarity amongst the chaos.
As someone who’s spent my entire career in digital design, I’ve grown discontent with the direction of the trends. A high emphasis is placed on efficiency, engagement, aesthetics, and profitability, leaving no room for responsibility. The machine stops for no one. We’ve replaced accountability with a funhouse mirror distorting reality enough to lead users to believe they are to blame for their own plight. Addiction, isolation, and depression have all been exacerbated by the products that promise connection and community. This reinforces the lie that something must be wrong with us, not the design.
In this bleak future, humans are merely pawns in the capitalist churn of technology. Our attention has become currency, and in this economy competition is inhumane. However, the problem of irresponsible design is so much bigger than the sum of its parts. Data, privacy, and sustainability are critical topics to discuss but the larger, looming issue is much more human. It lies within an outgrowth of industrial apathy.
I also found that these patterns of valuing profit over people weren’t at all unique to my area of expertise. I’ve spoken with countless print, environmental, architectural, graphic, and instructional designers that echo a similar sentiment. Which is to say, this apathy isn’t just a digital problem. It’s a design problem.
This led me to an existential crisis. Would I simply succumb to a nihilistic conclusion that we’ve lost our compassion for others or would I encourage others to remember our shared existence? While cynicism can be tantalizing, I chose the rockier path of hope.
Designing Hope is best viewed as an arm-wrestling match between pride and responsibility. I’m seeking to grapple with what hopeful design could look like across a wide spectrum of design disciplines. While certain practice areas have no shortage of nuance and expertise, this book strives to rise above technical theory, seeking out the heart of the matter. Design should be compassionate.
Now that we’ve covered what Designing Hope is, let’s briefly talk about what it’s not. It’s not a self-help book for designers. Though I hope it does help you, it has to be viewed through the lens of our shared communities. It’s not a dogmatic navel-gaze. It would be pure hubris to assume that I have the right answers to the ever-evolving issues we face as designers. It does, however, aspire to be the beginning of a conversation, not the conclusion.
In short, if you create things for others (you do), this book is for you.