Design As A Question

Clock of the Long Now

When Danny Hillis’ original essay was published in 1995, there’s a good chance I at least caught a piece of it – probably just some bold type on a printed glossy page; back then Wired magazine was a regular read so there’s a fair chance I did catch at least that much. If I actually read the piece however, it didn’t register. I suppose I was, in all the ways that matter, too young to get the point. It’s easy enough to understand what Hillis is saying. However I’m not talking about just understanding, but empathizing. Ten years after I get the point.

In 1977 I saw Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning film “Annie Hall” at the local movie theater. I recall enjoying the entire film, but when I think back on it – try to recall scenes from it – one segment always comes to mind: the “why bother, the universe is going to collapse” scene where exasperated adults (including a child psychologist) attempt in vain to explain why anything really matters. There’s something in that scene that has for me been carried forward in other films, such as “Brazil” and “Fight Club“. And when I think of “Fight Club”, especially as a designer, it’s hard not to recall the Ikea catalogue scene. It’s pretty damning.

I flipped through catalogs and wondered: What kind of dining set defines me as a person?

Is what I do for a living contributing to that kind of internal dialogue where what a person owns defines both who they are and their purpose in life? Sadly, I believe it does.

In recent years I’ve increasingly given consideration to my role in our voracious consumer society. And increasingly I find myself wishing I had a design response as eloquent as Dr. Hillis’ project, The Clock of the Long Now.

via FutureFeeder

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