No more Utopias: Modeling Incremental Change in Design Practice and Pedagogy

Conference: 

Discipline: 

Design Education Strategy

Keywords: 

  • ethics, cultural influence

Design seminars and symposia attempting to address the world’s manifold problems are suddenly commonplace. Although it is becoming clear that the UN Millennium Development goals are unattained and currently unachievable for some parts of the world, especially Africa, these same goals loom large on the agendas of the ERA, ICOGRADA, ICSID, the AIGA, the Aspen Summit, and other design conferences in the industrialized west.

The message being sent is that utopia is a matter of designing it and, where there’s a collective design initiative, and sufficient corporate sponsorship, anything is possible. Unfortunately, when it comes to design symposia, at the end of the week some few hundreds of attendees hop on a series of jumbo jets and return to their straight jobs, helping Fortune 1000 corporations discover new ways to extort profit from the world’s misFortune 2 billion people.

And in the process we pass this rubric on to our design students: business as usual, so long as you attend the occasional guilt-assuaging conference, never stopping to think how you might better have spent $1000.

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