The way design shapes our lives

We are all affected

Design is all around us. That tiresome cliché only seems to become more true with each passing day. Every morning, I wake up in my bed and turn off the alarm clock on my phone. I get out of bed, put my clothes on and go downstairs to make myself coffee and breakfast. In the first minutes of consciousness each day, I make use of countless design artefacts. And so does the rest of the world. Of course, western countries differ from other regions, but it still holds true. From the phone, to the bed and the coffeemaker, design is all around us. And it affects every aspect of our lives.

Klein portret Rowen Forman

Stuk door Rowen Forman. Artikelen van Rowen Forman.

We are what we create

“We shape our tools, and our tools shape us”. In the 1960’s, Marshall McLuhan was able to understand a phenomenon that started with the rise of industrialism. As we progress as a species, we constantly find new ways to extend our human faculties. We do this by using tools. Early man found that cutting something was much easier with a sharpened rock than with his hand. Today’s man finds that posting a picture of himself on vacation on Facebook is much easier than showing it to his friends in person. And so we will go on. Every need and want we feel will be increasingly easy to satisfy. And we get used to this. After being introduced to the easy way, people don’t want to go back to the old way. If you grow up with these new tools, you won’t even be able to fathom the old ones. Going back at this point becomes, impossible.

The great tools of our time

The most notable of these advancements is of course the smartphone. Growing up there were none, and yet, I can hardly imagine my life without them. Can you? In the relatively short time we’ve had smartphones at our disposal, they have completely reshaped our lives. We use it for everything. From checking the time to replying to work emails. As time passes, the device becomes more and more entrenched in our lives. And so it is with all the great tools of our time.

We will take back control

You could argue that these tools take control over us. That we become subservient to them. I could definitely agree to that. But I also believe that we could easily take back control. By working together and not competing with one another. We can make our designs serve us solely for our benefit. In a ‘global village’ as Marshall McLuhan would put it, we all contribute to the whole. We don’t fight each other for a piece of the pie. We would not create ‘profitable’ designs. No, we would just design to help ourselves and each other. Just like how Aral Balkan envisions design with his Ethical Design Manifesto.

The central machine

Right now, across the globe, 3d printing is enabling everyday people to take control back over design. I think that’s a beautiful thing. The way we govern our societies is a lot like what we IT professionals call a ‘Client Server Network’. The central machine decides who can do what, and how that should be accomplished. In time, I can see this morph into the opposite, the ‘Peer to Peer Network’. Where information, goods and services are exchanged freely between the people in the network. By taking control over the way we design our lives, we take back our individuality.

Come together, right now..

So as we accelerate into the future, we learn from the lessons of the past. We are our designs and our designs are us. Our lives are endlessly affected by our creations. But it doesn’t have to be negative. With numbers comes strength. I believe and hope, that we will create the world we want to have, together. Instead of fighting each other for it.

Literature list

● Balkan, A. (z.j.). Ethical Design. Geraadpleegd van

● Mcluhan, M. (1967). The Medium is the Massage (Herz. ed.). London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books Ltd.