Reflecting, Rethinking, Reforming: Exploring the Power, Purpose, and Potential of Design Activity

By Christy Carr Schellhas.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores the limitations of design when confined to the market economy and the potential design has to positively impact the world when practiced holistically.
The activity of designing reveals the story of how people (ought to) live. What are humans doing with design? How is it used? How does it function? To understand these issues, it is important to explore the current activity of designing and evaluate the effects of this activity—and designed products—in the lifestyle of people and the world. Critique plays an important role in the evolution of an idea from concept to a completed design—offering the opportunity to reflect upon process, rethink decisions, and reform direction. This paper offers a critique: description, interpretation and evaluation of the current function of design and its limitations when confined to the market economy. As it happens during a critique, vital information is revealed about the intent of the designer and how well that intent is actualized. To speak of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ misses the point entirely, it is about the success (or failure) of the chosen direction in relation to the intent that matters most. Often a critique illuminates a fatal error in the design methodology and a new, alternative design strategy must be developed: an opportunity to begin anew. Design activity is dynamic and ever evolving; even in a devastating critique, there is always hope, a chance to find the way that produces the best results for the given intention. When it comes to long-term survival of the human species, we must find a way of living that works best for humans to achieve this intention; this is the only design that matters. Using the gift economy as inspiration for holistic design practice, this paper is a call for change: to reflect, rethink, and reform.

Keywords: Reflecting, Rethinking, Reforming, Design Activity, Design Process, Power, Purpose, Potential, Limitations of the Market Economy, Gift Economy, Holistic Design, Critique, Exploration

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.115-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 639.764KB).

Christy Carr Schellhas

Associate Professor, Art Academy of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Christy Carr Schellhas works at the Art Academy of Cincinnati as an Associate Professor where she currently heads the Visual Communication Design program. Before joining the Art Academy, she taught at Miami University, University of Washington, and Northern Kentucky University. Schellhas has her own design consulting business and has worked in the design field for over 15 years. Her experience includes publishing, advertising and branding. Most recently, she launched Broadminded, a business dedicated to bringing the design process to people’s life in meaningful ways. Schellhas currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, Hans and their two daughters: Eva and Anja.


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