Unlocking the transformational power of design.

Micène Fontaine, July 22, 2021

What is the highest and best purpose of design? This is the question I was asked a few months ago when I was nominated to participate in CIDA's Future Vision project - more on that later, and no, my entry was not selected :-)

Transformational Design (1)

Who's your favorite architect or designer?  Or think of a piece of art you love, your favorite dish, or your favorite travel destination for that matter. Now, what is it that makes it special? If you thought travel, I doubt time spent in airports was the reason. It likely was the idea of time spent with friends, family, or on your own. Maybe the promise of feeling like a local far away from home. The same goes for art or food (food is an art if you ask me, but I digress). It's likely not about how perfectly executed - or safe - the flight, the art, the dish, the space was but the memories it conjures, the part of you that's embedded in it. It - whatever it is - transforms you for a moment - transports you. 

The emotional or psychological travel it unlocks is - to me - what sets a transformational experience apart from a transactional one. Nothing wrong with transactional experiences. We have them every day, they are essential to keep things moving along safely and efficiently, but they usually are neutral. Unremarkable. 

The same goes for architecture and design; it can be transactional. i.e., meet code and accessibility requirements, check all the required boxes for a particular use case, and be executed flawlessly on time and on budget (I know, one can dream) and yet be missing something. Of course, there is still a lot of value in that design, but its transformational power - its highest purpose - resides in what's missing. 

When the list of the 2021 Future Vision Participants was released, several names jumped out (and, no, mine was not one of them). People whose work I admire for its transformational power and higher purpose. I looked up the work of those I did not know and discovered Ian Rolston and his company Decanthropy.

I quickly learned that reevaluating the value of design - thinking about it differently - is Ian's wheelhouse. Check out his entry here or find them all on Twitter. You can also join his Change by Design session 'The Reimagined Value of the Architecture and Design Industry' to learn more.

What do you think is the highest and best purpose of design? 

:Change by Design