When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it
that it is bound to be ugly.
But those that make it after you,
they don’t have to worry about making it.
And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it
when the others
make it after you.
— Picasso, quoted in Victor Papanek's Design for the Real World
Here, possibly, is the crux of the matter: to instill in the designer a willingness for experimentation, coupled with a sense of responsibility for his failures. Unfortunately, both a sense of responsibility and an atmosphere permissive to failure are rare indeed.
A more ideal creative-design environment will consist of habituating designers and students to work in areas where their many blocks and inhibitions cannot operate, and this would imply a high tolerance level for experimental failure. Furthermore, it must mean that the teaching and exploring of basic principles which, by the very nature, have no immediate application. This calls for a "suspension of belief" in ready answers, and in the glib, slicked-up kitsch that characterizes most of the design work coming out of schools and offices.
No environment can strongly affect a person unless it is strongly interactive. To be interactive, the environment must be responsive. That is, it must provide relevant feedback to the learner. For the feedback to be relevant, it must meet the learner where he is, then program (change in appropriate steps at appropriate times) as he changes. The learner changes (that is, is educated) through his responses to the environment.
The student becomes a participant in their own growth, is changed by their environment, and in turn, changes it.
Taking the long view, we can see that our attempts to remove all of our activities from the manual to the mechanical and then to the automatic indiscriminately may be quite wrong …
To quote Bob Malone on this: is the automatic gear shift then a true advance in humane design or not? Since it tends to remove man from a basic and relatively simple use of his motor responses, rather than to simplify and integrate the processes, we can see that the validity of the automatic gear shift is illusory. When a true need or desire is satisfied for a passive human being without effort, the result is not gratification, but rather a more complex level of dissatisfaction.
Something can be learned from these five myths. It is a fact that the designer often has greater control over his work than he believes he does, that quality, basic new concepts, and mass production could mean designing for the majority of the world's people, rather than for a small domestic market. Designing for people's needs rather than for their wants, or artificially created wants, is the only meaningful direction now.
Consumer testing is frequently done in one of two ways: either secretaries are urged to sit in the chairs for however long it takes them to type one sentence (after which their attention is directed to the delicious upholstery color and texture), or else the chair is sat upon for hundreds of hours by a machine to see if one of the chair legs will break off. Neither test, I would submit, really gets down to the fundamentals: do different secretaries experience major discomfort while working hard, seated in a chair for a series of four-hour periods, stretching over weeks, months, or years? More crucial still is the fact that almost nothing industry designs and markets is ever re-tested. If it sells, swell.
The skills of the designer must be made accessible to all the people. This will mean the restructuring of the role of the designer into that of a community problem-solver.
If even the rich feel burdened by the lack of an ideal, to those who suffer real deprivation an ideal is a first necessity of life. Where there is plenty of bread and a shortage of ideals, bread is no substitute for an ideal. But where bread is short, ideals are bread.
Young people, teenagers, and prepubescents have been propagandize into buying, collecting, and soon discarding useless expensive trash. It is only rarely that young people overcome this indoctrination.
One notable rebellion against it, however, did occur in Sweden when a 10-day "Teenagers' Fair" attempting to promote products for a teenage market was boycotted so thoroughly it nearly got put out of business. According to a report in Sweden NOW (Vol. 2, No. 12, 1968), a good number of youths resisted what they considered over-consumption by holding their own "Anti-Fair," where the slogan of the day was "Hell, no, we won't buy!" On the big day, buses collected teens from all over Stockholm and drove them to experimental theatres where special programs of politically engagé films and plays were scheduled, and such subjects as world hunger, pollution, and drugs were discussed in workshop sessions. In the kids' opinion, the "Teenagers' Fair" was just the beginning of a systematic plan to exploit young Europeans by enticing them to want more clothes, cars, and "status junk."