Design dignity: disrupted

In late 2016, InVision, the prototyping-application company, hosted a screening of Design Disruptors (I know, a dirty and exploited word) in Sydney and pretty much everywhere else. I can't speak on behalf of the other cities, but it attracted a good turn out in Sydney, which makes it all the more unfortunate that it was such a dismal show. Actually it was disgusting and I'm calling it a "show" because it wasn't honest enough to be a documentary and it wasn't pointed enough to be a movie. It was an hour long advertisement masked as a promising representation of the Digital Design industries. Anywho I'm not posting to complain about how shit disruptors was, that is self-evident. And someone should explain to inVision what "disruptors" means, I'm embarrassed of, and for, them.

What was interesting is that it carved up the crowd 50/50. Half the crowd walked out in disgust, feeling dirty and visibly resenting themselves for being duped into watching propaganda in the hopes it would be the Design-equivalent of The 50 year Argument. It wasn't and even making that comparison is a profane act on my part. Curiously though - and simultaneously disappointingly - half the crowd stayed and soaked up the message and the panel discussion afterward. As we were leaving and trying our best to not throw tomatoes at the screen, I overheard the people in rows before and after us saying things like "that was pretty good" and "yeah, it was beautifully shot" and I couldn't help thinking that they should be beautifully shot too. I was disappointed, as somehow I frequently am, to be amongst Designers. It felt like 1984.

In a few discussions since that screening, I've encountered some friends that hated it, some that liked it though none that loved it and only a few that were clever enough to avoid it in the first place. With the people that hated it, I'm in agreement. But with the people that liked it, I've had some lively discussions that might more appropriately be deemed "heated". The two perspectives that clash, obviously from my subjective perception only, play out like this;

  • pro: it was an enjoyable insight into leading companies in the Digital Design industries
  • con: it was a marketing campaign to allow invision to show only the companies that use their app and to brainwash you, apple-style

  • pro: but they made it to disseminate knowledge about the power of digital disruption
  • con: it wasn't actually about disruption, it was about hyping Design and that is a vulgar propogation of a virtuous thing

  • pro: you can't have good documentaries for free without some benefit to the maker, that's naive
  • con: to believe that social good can be done without compensation is not naivety, it's ideology

  • pro: to think that everything has to made with a high-level message and for "good" is puritanical and kills the unrestrained joy of creativity
  • con: Design without intent and purpose is not Design, creativity for the sake of creativity is art. Design is already too full of artists not citing rationale.

And the conversation can go on as long as these diametrically opposed perspectives can stay out at the pub that night. I can obviously see more truth and merit to these cons than these pros. But it must be said that Design, the industries, are in a never ending battle to be taken seriously as contributors to the world of valuable goods, services and (aspirationally) ideals. Not financially valuable, ethically valuable. Designers who take Design seriously wanted that "movie" to show the value Designers can contribute to society and that they are comprehensive thinkers who anticipate the moral compromise that disrupting opportunities can bring. Instead the movie appealed to "trendy" Designers who wanted to see nicely decorated offices and post-it notes and whiteboards with pretend-wireframes added to make the background look creative.

It wasn't the deep dive we needed to establish Design as a credible, complex and respectable pursuit of solutions rather than promotions. Attempts like that undermine the efforts of Designers who are thinking critically about how to further the notion that Design is a careful and methodic enterprise where knowledge of the visual domain proliferates. Instead it was a testament to the vanity-driven Designer that decorates his desk with a cute anime figure and has a mac book pro and wears suspenders and knows more about conforming to trends than they do about Design.

So thank you inVision, nobody could have disrupted the path to respectable Design quite like you did.

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“The designer is a visually literate person, just as an editor is expected by training and inclination to be versed in language and literature, but to call the former an artist by occupation is as absurd as to refer to the latter as a poet.” Douglas A. MARTIN