Read for class discussion (9/28)- Imagining the Future, Bruce Mau. Download the pdf here if you can’t see it in this blog post.
Let me begin with an admission. I am a designer, which
means I cannot afford the luxury of cynicism. Designers are
called upon to come up with solutions to problems of every
imaginable description, from designing a machine to provide
kidney dialysis at home to creating an interface for complex
critical systems like air-traffic control. No matter what
the specific nature of a project — whether it’s a park or a
product, a book or a business — optimism is always central
to my work. It’s as important to what I do as research tools,
computer systems, or a sense of colour.
Three years ago, the Vancouver Art Gallery invited me to
produce a major exhibition on the future of design. They had
no fixed ideas as to what that might mean, except for the
scale; they wanted something that would mark a significant
commitment by their museum to the design field.
My first impulse was to say no. To discover what is happening
in design around the world and to explore its potential
across all the disciplines seemed too daunting. Besides,
I was happily working on a full slate of projects that were
already very demanding and personally rewarding.
But something was irritating me. There was something
floating around in our culture that I found deeply troubling.
It got under my skin until it became an itch I had to scratch.
There seemed to be a growing split between reality and
mood, a conflict between what is actually happening in the
world — what we are capable of, what we are committed to,
what we are achieving — and our perception of how we’re
doing. The prevailing mood feels dark, negative, harrowingly
pessimistic, and tending to the cynical. Bizarrely, this
kind of negativity has become the vogue even in creative
fields, which are traditionally committed to vision, beauty,
and pleasure, to notions of utopia — to possibility, in other
words. This is especially true in design. How, I wondered,