Design vs. the Design Industry

Joanna Boehnert, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, Cooperative
Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA.



Design can be understood as a practice that evolves as new cognitive and perceptual capacities enable a greater understanding of complexity, context and system dynamics. These emergent capacities create greater potential for social and technological innovation. This paper will argue that despite emergent skills, designers are not able to effectively address contemporary problems in a sustainable manner due to the systemic priorities of the design industry. This paper theorises "design" as the professional practice of creating new products, buildings, services and communication as a broader practice than the work that is produced within the "design industry". The design industry operates according to highly reductive feedback generated by capitalism that systemically ignores signals from the ecological and social systems. The exclusive focus on profit and quantitative economic growth results and in distortions of knowledge and reason thereby undermining prospects for the design of long-term prosperity within the context of the current political and economic regime.

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