Socially Oriented Designers

(Italian Translation) Being a designer means many different things. Sometimes we might take this profession for granted or don’t value it as much as it deserves to be.

It seems the we can easily forget how it had originated, and how many responsibilities, like the social ones, it can imply.

Maybe it’s worth to recall how–being the 1st world war ended–the world powers realized the need for a physical reconstruction of the cities and most of all the need for a social system rearrangement, taking care of its new necessities. Therefore, artists and traditional artisans weren’t enough experienced to fulfill the society needs. This is the panorama within whose the designer’s figure become defined and this project was carried by the Bauhaus school–through the unification of Fine Arts and Applied Arts Academies.

From 1919 to today, the designer’s role has changed. The CHRISTIE’S director, Philippe Garner, states inside his ” sixties design” book that design has extended way beyond the need for harmony between form and function. Designers create products as the result of society and culture and they place them into specifics market place–he specifies. Alongside being technicians, materials’ specialists, draftsmen, inventors, thinkers, agitators, scientists, and poets, we above all became communicators.

The question is quite spontaneous: communicators of what sort of contents? Reading through some contemporary society studies or just even by a critical observation of society it self, we can wonder about– in the ‘society of technology’, of ‘fake news’, of ‘uncontrolled divulgation’, of ‘fake sociality ‘and ‘collective isolation’–which values can be found.We can even go further and wonder about the design’s reactions to this undeniable social crisis.


If looking at the past is easy to get an answer to that question, on the other hand looking at the present and at the future is not at all. The invention of Mary Quaint’s ‘miniskirt’ can perhaps be considered as one of the most suitable reaction to the female emancipation need. Few decades later ‘sustainable and green design’ researches replied too. What about today? Perhaps ‘selfies-sticks’, ‘drones’, ‘multi-functional’ objects and–why not–’sex toys’ can be taken as examples. Each of those objects has its right to exist and each of them has a more or less evident story behind. Perhaps the hidden-stories can be, in order of appearance, linked with the need to show off in order to become more attractive to other people and to ourselves; to play war using the filming excuse; to take the best advantage of a limited budget in the mindset of ‘pay one and take two’; to overcome the sexual dissatisfaction due to a lack of communication.


Mary Quaint

Attesting the hidden-stories, we can again wonder. Is it fair that design provides society for its requests or perhaps would be more appropriate–considering contemporary climate–to exploit our power in order to condition and lead society towards other directions?

This question has been taken under consideration by many people. For instance, inside the “Professional ethic code” the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) established at least 3 design’s tasks and aims in 2001:

  1. global ethics-enhance global sustainability andenvironmental protection
  2. social ethics-give benefits and freedom to the entire human community
  3. cultural ethics-support cultural diversity despite globalization

Starting from this statement, a research–’Ethics and social Responsibility: Integration within Industrial design education in Oceania’–was taken in Oceania with the aim of verifying that design Bachelors and MAs were sufficiently social oriented. Those positive outcomes confirmed that the academic world is aware of this responsibility designers have and as a consequence students are too.

Isn’t it so that as soon as we graduate we gradually start to forget our aims and tasks? That we forget to worry and take care of our society? Could we always be proud of our products, systems, ideas and contents?


Papanek, Victor

Perhaps we shall keep for ever in our mind the words:” Design responds to ‘needs,’ not to ‘wants’.” stated by Victor Papanek said being one of the most relevant socially oriented designer in 1971. Only going back to this distinguishing vision of the designer’s role we can find one of the best designing process guide and get our responsibility back in order to create a problem solving design, a influential design, a design able to determine valid contents for our society.


Philippe Garner (1996). Sixties design, Taschen

Colin Davies, Monika Parrinder (2009) . Limited language:rewriting design responding to a feedback culture.

Papanek, Victor (1971). Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, New York, Pantheon Books


Author: Giulia Fioravera


You may also like

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

Cookie Name Duration Purpose
woocommerce_cart_hash session Helps WooCommerce determine when cart contents/data changes.
woocommerce_items_in_cart session Helps WooCommerce determine when cart contents/data changes.
wp_woocommerce_session_ 2 days Contains a unique code for each customer so that it knows where to find the cart data in the database for each customer.
  • woocommerce_cart_hash
  • woocommerce_items_in_cart
  • wp_woocommerce_session_

Decline all Services
Accept all Services