Fragments of the Ideal

A good designer is not merely a an adept problem solver or an experienced decorator – a good designer is a thinker, an idealist, a Romantic. The work of a good designer is not a plain answer to the forces of necessity, it is a fragment of an ideal world, a world of his own conception. Through the full exercise of their skill, talent, effort and creativity, the designer is able to form a conduit into this world, to extract one by one a shard of this vision and bring it back to us, back to reality. The designer materializes a part of an ideal world through their work, and in doing this reshapes our own reality into that imaged by them. Good designers are Romantics in a sense that they have a vision of the world in which they want to live in and enough belief in themselves to become a force that brings about this world.

A philosopher moulds civilization with his words. By piercing holes into its deepest caverns he lets the light shine into its darkest depths. By painting a picture of the ideal he gives us a sense of what to expect, what to desire, what to look forward to. He gives us an image of the future to cherish and believe in. He lifts our gaze towards greener pastures and greater heights. He gives us hope. In turn, a leader is the one who takes those words and springs to action, who cuts down all obstacles in the path, carves tunnels through mountains, maps out the terrain and paves the road for civilization to follow. Where a philosopher paints a picture of Progress, a leader takes us there.

But along the way, there are the people who make the goods of everyday life that surround us and sustain us, who invent the products of tomorrow that one by one alleviate the hardships of life, that enrich it and make it worth living. They are the designers and inventors, and at their highest level their work assumes an aspect closer to that of a philosopher or a social leader for their work directly moulds the nature of our lives. Every product around us has been designed. Some were made quickly, carelessly, meeting specifications but missing the mark of what the designer deems to be good work, and their look and function betrays this. Yet other products stand out. They are beautiful, functional, durable, clear, iconic. They are products of love and labour, products of great skill and monumental effort. These products are the manifestation of a better world brought to reality through the dexterity of the designer’s hand, the sharpness of his mind and a devoted, vigorous, focused dedication to his craft. A designer realizes Progress in material reality as a philosopher does in immaterial thought. The true worth of good designers lies not in their skill alone, but in their spirit, in their belief that their efforts can change the world around them, and in their unwavering resolve to do this one product at a time.

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“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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