If you’re of a certain vintage, you’ll remember how cheerful the early 1990s felt. The Berlin Wall was gone and we thought history was over. The new World Wide Web heralded a future where we’d all learn from each other, freed from eccentricities accrued through millennia of having to compete for material resources. Good times.
Now hydrogen bombs are back! And Nazis! And the climate is going nuts! And as for the Web… although most of it is quite good, it’s fallen short of our early optimistic outlook in some areas. As it’s become clear history was not over but merely taking a short nap, we should now ask ourselves: What can I do to make things better?
As a designer, I turn to one of my heroes — Buckminster Fuller — for inspiration. Bucky described the role of the designer (which he considered himself to be) as “an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist.” While I love this description as a way of understanding how designers can change things systemically, for guidance on what to change towards I turn to his mission statement:
To make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest time possible through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone.
Crazy idealistic — and spot-on. I’ve adopted this mission, replacing “without ecological damage” (which is somewhat removed from my direct purview as a designer of information environments) to “without damaging semantic environments.”
Making the world work for 100% of humanity.
In the shortest time possible.
Through spontaneous cooperation.
Without damaging semantic environments or disadvantaging anyone.
In troubled times, it’s important to have a clear sense of purpose. Bucky’s statement is something to aspire to and work towards.