Today we’re launching Offscreen Issue 22! Subscriber copies are being sent out today and we’ll do another round of shipments this Thursday, Dec 19th! If you are not a subscriber, make sure you place an order by Wednesday so that we can get your copy into the mail before the holiday break!
In this issue we share thought-provoking conversations with:
- Cennydd Bowles
The designer and ethicist with a strong call for a new ethical awakening in tech and design, led by individual and collective action.
- Jenny Odell
The artist and educator provides a less capitalistic perspective on productivity, one that values observation, care, and maintenance.
- Paul Ford
The author, programmer, and CEO talks about his journey from idealist to realist, critically examining the power dynamics that shape our current understanding of ‘technological progress’.
- Anab Jain
The designer, futurist, and film-maker creates visceral experiences to showcase what our shared futures may look like.
As always, we relied on the generous support by our sponsors to make this issue happen: DuckDuckGo, Harvest, MetaLab, Hover, SiteGround, and Postmark. And of course, a big ‘thank you’ to all Patrons of this issue.
Editor’s Note of Issue 22
As a sneak peek, here’s this issue’s editor’s note:
If you practiced digital design in the early 2000s, you may recall fighting for a seat at the table where business decisions were made. ‘Take design more seriously!’ was a common plea from designers at a time when our discipline’s contribution was often seen as superficial – a nice-to-have.
Two decades later, design has spread its wings. Designers are no longer just polishing up interfaces – we conduct research, study behaviour, and employ psychology. We put the desires and emotions of users at the centre of everything we do to make products more captivating, more efficient, and immensely profitable. Design is big business.
Actually, design is now so deeply intertwined with business goals that in many cases it’s become nothing but a slave to perpetual growth-market dynamics, dismissing any idea that doesn’t involve ‘solving customer problems’. With such a narrow-minded focus on one outcome – customer happiness – designers have turned into one-dimensional problem solvers who ignore possible consequences for anyone or anything else other than the customer. The business of design has made us oblivious to the complexities of the world. We now relentlessly prioritise individual needs over those of our communities, our societies, and our planet.
The looming threat of environmental and societal breakdown confronts us with some difficult questions: can we still justify putting the needs of humans at the centre of solving problems when the solutions we come up with are incompatible with a sustainable future? Is it time to move beyond our unidimensional thinking and encourage a new design philosophy that considers not just the best outcome for humanity but accounts for our interdependence with all life on earth? Does design need to break free from the shackles of efficiency and compliance, and strive for more speculative, provocative solutions – many of which may clash with the capitalistic conventions of today?
While the interviews in this issue may not provide clear-cut answers to these urgent questions, I hope our conversations will inspire you to think more deeply about the harms of the user-centred design thinking that is so pervasive in our industry. I hope they will help plant seeds for a more regenerative, planet-centric design approach. Because if there has ever been a time to take design more seriously, that time is now.