Solving Problems: New Areas of Engagement

Over the past few months I’ve quoted extensively from Design For The Real World by Victor Papanek. I’ve finally finished his book and it has become, without a doubt, one of the most fundamental books I’ve read on design to date. He cuts through the fluff and gets straight to the core of design: How do we solve problems.

Many of the problems we face today is still unsolved because of a vicious cycle that is subconsciously set in motion when a young designer chooses his first job.

…the choices facing a young designer seem mainly economic. Financial security is understandably of enormous importance to students and young designers. This brings a whole new dimension to designing for the poor and needy. The prime consideration now is a job.

Some have sold out to an employer and continue to design luxury items for a small privileged class. One may fault this approach, nonetheless it is a legitimate response to a difficult existential choice. Others have accepted my suggestion and contribute one tenth of their time or one-tenth of their income to solving problems of abject need, while continuing with their jobs.

Without realising it a young designer sets himself on a course where the luxury items for a small privileged class blinds him to the solutions that might arise by designing for the many instead of the money.

Even the most successful designer can afford to give one-tenth of his time. It is unimportant what the mechanics of the situation are: four hours out of every forty, one working day out of every ten, or ideally, every tenth year, to be spent a sort of sabbatical, designing for many instead of for money.

For in showing students new areas of engagement, we may set up alternative patterns of thinking about design problems.

I live in South Africa, a developing country in a Third World country with more problems we sometimes care to solve. Yes, some of them are way to scary to even think about, but engaging in some will lead to solving others. And this makes it worth pursuing…