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.