Questioning empathy

Conceptual, bourgeois, self-centered, design has not proven its utility to the general public. Thus it is legitimate to wonder if a typographer is truly useful during a famine. What can a webdesigner do in the face of population ageing? Why should a student chose to study ethnographic design in the big data era? Designers’ decisions are shaping our world as so many directions for people to live. These directions have to be questioned to rediscover what is useful and put it back at the center of design.

When we ask different people to say what design is, answers are numerous but they often overlap. “Design is intended to decorate thing”, “design is intented to create websites”, “design is intented to build home furnishings”, “design is intented to draw cars”. We are far from the definition of Professor Alain Findeli, who describes design as a way to maintain habitability of the world in every dimensions. However, we understand through these crossed perspectives that design is intented to, which is exactly what its origin states, since design comes from disegno which means both drawing AND intention. But then what is the use of a designer?

Giving refugees free electricity


This legitimate question is served badly by some designers, who are forgetting the real purpose of their jobs: others. This is due to the dramatization of an egocentric lifestyle or the contagious interest of the last fashionable logo, which will be forgotten in a few months. Others, they are the lost refugees who just arrived in France, they are the homeless people living in Bastille Square, they are the college school students who are about to be graduated, they are the grandfathers discovering Skype, they are the employees looking for purpose, they are your mother who misses you or someone that you will never see.

It’s through otherness that the designer becomes an expert of subjects he works on and people he designs for. It is also through empathy that he manages to design, since he forgets himself and puts himself in others’ shoes. It is finally through his human-centered design that the designers gets out of his comfort zone… to go in the others’ comfort zone.

Loving people

To be worth existing due to a constructive action, this is the question every designer should ask. Since useful is not bound to utilitarianism, the designer addresses also poetry, is in praise of slow, embraces complexity or humour through his job. If we had to look into design, we should examine it from the angle of humanity, ethics and humility. Because in reality, designer should not work for him but in the service of others, who might not know what design is but for who design is indispensable.

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