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The Belief of the Designer, part 1

Design is, in many ways, the prototypical interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary field of study. It encompasses art and architecture, engineering and aesthetics. Good designers dabble equally and alternately in education, politics, marketing, technology, cognitive science, and ethics—among innumerable other specialties.

Included in this cacophony of fields is philosophy, which has proven a particularly fertile area of inquiry for designers.

Designers have studied epistemologists and phenomenologists, historicists and social theorists. Names such as Baudrillard and Bachelard and Habermas and Foucault are well known among designers—and all have been used to great effect. Perhaps the single greatest result of such philosophic inquiry is the recognition of desire as a core human feeling.

Though designers are yet far from perfecting it, they've begun to discover precise paths to desire. Desire is part of design's parlance and is the ultimate goal of any whiteboard begging to be filled. Hence the appearance of such products as the iPod, which anticipates the need it fills, satisfying change even as it creates the need for change.

As design approaches perfection of the fulfillment of desire, it needs to look forward to other human feelings, needs, or impulses. After all, if everything is designed to satisfy all of our desires—which are, by definition, a product of a loss or absence—is there an absence left to fill? Therefore, the design field needs to look toward a field of inquiry different than philosophy, yet one akin to it.

I believe (loaded phrasing for an atheist, there) that design needs to look to religion for its next stage of evolution. We could, perhaps, call it intelligent design.

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