Almost every design process begins with looking at the inputs of what will create something. What is the context? For who is it being made? Who will be the audience? Etc, etc.
Rarely, however, do designers actively consider the context beyond the design itself. In this article, I would like to discuss the large cultural impact of design – diffused across the work of thousands of designers.
In my opinion, one of the things that makes design different than art is the prompt from a client. Design is created for something. To fulfill a very specific need based on a specific context that is defined by and through the client. The end product then, is a reflection of those client needs, context, and concept. If the design is does well, the client and design shake hands and the process continues.
However, in this relationship, there is a third dynamic occurring which is not being considered. I will frame this context using a term I coined to describe this: Total Aesthetics.
In our modern era, we are living in spaces that are entirely designed. We spend hours in houses, offices, cars, and looking at screens all of which have been crafted by designers. We have to see this in opposition to life in a pre-modern era where most humans lived in rural areas and had large scale interaction with nature. Houses or products that were built were most often sourced from the local environment, and although some individuals may have possessed products from artisans, the vast majority nevertheless lived their lives with their physical conditions largely formed from nature.
In this light, the context of our designed world and the scale of our designed world is even more evident. From this we can also shift to the meaning of Total Aesthetics. Total Aesthetics is the entire collection of the aesthetic influences that an individual encounters on a daily basis.
In this day and age most people live in a total aesthetic environment that is majority shaped by human design. Which begs the question, what is the affect of this on the human soul and psyche?
This question is one that will be continued to explored in multiple articles in this blog. But in this case, to bring it back to the top. This question is the third relationship existing beyond client and designer.
Both client and designer are making a contribution to the total aesthetics of our modern society. When designing something, designers should ask: what am I contributing aesthetically? And how will this affect the public at large?