Tag Archives: Flusser

The Magic of Design

7 Mar
by L. Nichols

In English, the word design is both a noun and a verb (which tells one a lot about the nature of the English language). As a noun, it means – among other things – ‘intention’, ‘plan’, ‘intent’, ‘aim’, ‘scheme’, ‘plot’, ‘motif’, ‘basic structure’, all these (and other meanings) being connected with ‘cunning’ and ‘deception’. As a verb (‘to design’), meanings include ‘to concoct something’, ‘to simulate’, ‘to draft’, ‘to sketch’, ‘to fashion’, ‘to have designs on something’. 1

When I first read Flusser’s essay about the nature of the word design (About the Word Design 1), I was simultaneously floored and also a little angry.

A designer is a cunning plotter laying his traps. 1

As someone who studied engineering, as someone who works as a graphic designer, as an artist, I felt attacked , accused of blatant deception. But the more I thought about what he was getting at, the more I realized that there was a definite basis of truth to the claim of designer as a trickster/deceiver. Maybe being a deceiver isn’t such a bad thing.

I always hear comics people talking about design. Page design/layout. Character design. Book design. Website design. Etc. etc. etc. But what does this really mean? If we agree that design is about deception and manipulation, is tricking/being tricked really such a bad thing?

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