Human beings are well known for seeking, throughout all their lives, for the true meaning of their existence. Design, in its broadest sense, it’s one of the mean by which humans try to reach their need for the absolute true. Through design man was able to explore his capacities and transform his weaknesses into strengths. ‘Design seeks to shape the gaze of viewers in such a way that they become capable of discovering things themselves’ (Groys, 2008).
In these terms, design becomes a prerogative for the New Man. As explained by Nietzsche, The New Man, or Ubermensch, is the one who, being free of the idea of God, is able to accept life for its tragic dimension, for the lack of certainties, for the chaos and the non-sense by imposing himself as the interpreter of reality and the creator of meaning and value. Feuerbach, before Nietzsche’s theory, believed that God didn’t create man, but the opposite. God, in the philosopher’s opinion, is nothing but the illusory projection of man’s best qualities (reason, will and affection) translated into their maximum perfection (God is in fact omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly kind).
When it comes to design, as explained by Groys, the paradigm shift brought by the 20th century determined an ‘extension of the will to design from the world of things to that of human beings themselves’. Religion was replaced with design, as a symbol for the power of human beings to manipulate the elements of the Earth with the strength of their arms. Ethics became part of aesthetics.
Nowadays, God has been replaced with the machines and the buildings we design. It is in this ‘creatures’ that now we seek for safety and release. The process theorised by Feuerbach is, therefore, still the same: man extrapolates from himself his best merits and puts them into objects that afterwords become his masters and eventually his persecutors.
In the 21st century people don’t believe in one God anymore. We believe in the highest skyscrapers that dwell our cities and prevent us from receiving sunlight; we venerate the most luxurious cars that forbid us to breathe; we glorify internet and social medias as the only way we have left to communicate; eventually, we idolise money which create separation and disparity. We live for our products and constructions, which now seem to exist independently from our action or will. As a species, we can’t live without submitting ourselves to fantasies we created and that we eventually define as autonomous and out of our control.
‘The individual has become a mere cog in an enormous organisation of things and powers which tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to transform them from their subjective form into the form of a purely objective life’ (Simmel, 1971).
‘Modern culture is constantly growing more objective. Its tissues grow more and more out of impersonal energies, and absorb less and less the subjective entirety of the individual.’ (Simmel, 1906).
The problem of our modern society is that the objects of design have evolved but the nature of the systems, in which those are developed, has not. As future design managers, our duty is to create new systems created by humans for other humans and for the sake of a pure existence based on simple but powerful things.
- Groys, B. (2008). The Obligation To Self-Design. E-Flux. Available at: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-obligation-to-self-design/ [Accessed 28 Jan. 2016].