The Limits of Design

I’m concerned. Has anyone else but me noticed the growing tendency in Western democratic countries around the world to censor anything that might be considered offensive to Muslims?

Think back to the Danish editorial cartoon, the book by S. Rushdie and most recently the modification of a musical performance in Germany. It seems so small and insignificant, but these are signals that something is shifting in our world — a shift that will eventually constrain our freedom to speak the truth through design.

It’s a spirit of fear. And it’s not exclusive to Islamic extremists coming to get you if you say anything against the Prophet Mohamed. You can find fear operating in dictators, emperors, fascists, communists, capitalists, democracies and even Christian churches. We’re naïve as designers to think that the power of fear which for centuries has shaped, stifled and controlled the expression of truth through the visual arts can’t exert it’s influence again. Let’s take a little quiz to see how fear might already be impacting our choices:

  • Do you have a burning passion or project in design that you’d like to pursue, but just can’t seem to do it?
  • Do you dream of working independently, but can’t break free of your current employer?
  • Have you ever known what the best design solution was for a client’s problem, but didn’t suggest it?
  • Have you ever wanted to break the creative boundaries on a project, but couldn’t?
  • Have you ever wanted to share your idea with your colleagues but didn’t?

All of these questions, as simplistic as they are, indicate that at some level fear is shaping our decisions. Fear limits our creativity. Fear hampers our ability to do what is best for others and ultimately ourselves. Fear makes design bland and ineffective.

Probably none of us reading this blog have ever lived or designed under a system of fear and repression like those in communist, fascist or even Islamic fundamentalist countries. We are, however, familiar with the spirit of fear in our everyday lives. We must fight against fear where ever we find it. The truth is our greatest weapon against fear in design. Let’s find the truth and use it to drive out fear so that design can touch the heart.

8 Responses to “The Limits of Design”

  1. Avatar dailey Crafton

    The best way to drive out fear: love. 1 John 4:18 tells us that there is no fear in love, but that perfect love casts out fear.

  2. Avatar Frank McClung

    I appreciate your thoughts Dailey, but for some reason it doesn’t connect with me. It’s like corporate speak, only Christian speak. Kind of bounces off of me, and I’m trying to hear what your saying underneath it all.

  3. Avatar Katharhino

    I thought of that verse too, Dailey, but how would you use love to cast out fear in design? Love for what? Our work? God’s glory? Both? Any thoughts?

  4. Avatar Dailey Crafton

    I think you’re right in saying love for both. Love for God for who He is and what He has done through the person of Jesus. One of the biggest ways we show our love for God is to trust Him.

    He is soveriegn and His will will be done. This is a terrifying thought for a bunch of sinners, but we that know Christ know that in His sovereignty He has chosen to love us more deeply than we will ever know, and out of that love comes His choice to do good to us. So because Jesus loves us, He has the will to do good to us, and because He is sovereign He has the power and authority to do good to us, and nobody can stop HIm.

    All that to say go into a design situation knowing that God is zealous to bless you in that endeavor, if you will but trust Him with it. That is a freeing thought indeed.

    for example if you think, “this is the best concept, but the client may not like it.” True love shows the client that best idea regardless of what that client may say, because God has already determined the outcome, for “good or bad.”

    Whether you eating or drinking or designing or selling, do it for God’s glory alone (graphic designers paraprhase of 1Cor. 10:13.)

    I write this not because I’m trying to teach you all a lesson, but because this is an excercise that is so hard for me, but it has to occur in my mind every minute of every day. And remember, it’s not your strength that will accomplish this in you, it’s His.

  5. Avatar Anonymous

    There was a time when Chistian soldiers were knee-deep in Moslem blood taking back Spain or the Holy Land. Now all we hear are people tip toeing for fear of offending delicate sensibilities of Islam as we listen to reports of riots and threats.Those Crusaders must be rolling over in their graves at this! Is it the same war? I think so.
    Global dominance is the dark side of all the Religions out there. And to pretend otherwise is to be niave.

    There is more than one Islam, remember. Wahabism just happens to be very dominant. Fundamentalism is dominant here. But I wouldn’t compare the two the simplistic way liberals always like to parallel them.

    But I agree on the one point that Love with dispel Fear id only there was a better dialogue.

    Raise your hands: How many of you have ever been to an Islamic site to read the other point of view?

  6. Avatar Katharhino

    Hey, fivemcclungs, I know what you mean about Dailey’s response. It’s not that what he’s saying isn’t true… it IS true. But I really struggle, trying to balance authentic trust in God with being real about my fears. Yeah, all we have to do is trust in Him. That’s true. But it’s a pretty big “all”! Not to mention that sometimes you have to judge your time for speaking. Should “fearless” always mean “tactless”?

    And Anonymous, you make some good points too. Fear can sometimes keep us from really reaching out to the “other side” as well.

    I don’t have any solutions. But for me, it’s easy to talk about it but very hard to do it. I’d like to be fearless–but how? It takes a lot of prayerful struggle to “just trust in God”…


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