Why I Design.

A preface to my Thesis Almanac.

I once stole a book. Sitting alongside The Bible in a San Francisco hotel room drawer was 'The Teachings of Buddha'. Though my conscience was in doubt, I was intrigued, and could only assume the karmic repercussions to be somehow recursive in the way Googling 'Google' is. I was 16 (and Google was 2).

I didn't become a Buddhist, but what stuck with me most was the philosophy of the 'Middle Way'. Instead of thinking in dichotomies like good and evil, you can think about a path in the middle that doesn't rely on opposing forces, but still recognizes both of them.

And being British, I love a satisfactory compromise.

Design is my middle way. I grew up obsessed with making things, and as I formed my identity I was sure it was that of an artist. But as I matured and began to think more deeply about making, I became drawn to thinking about intractable problems like why we find things beautiful in the first place. I became a problem-solver. Or rather, a problem-lover. I studied philosophy. I learned to love grey areas and questions without answers.

Design is my middle way because design is making as an answer. It takes the part of my mind that spent all day drawing as a child, and the part that stayed up all night discussing ethics, and lets them work together.

And when we make things as designers, we aren't just expressing ourselves or communicating theory. We're putting an opinion into the world that has impact. That can be used, and we hope be useful. So the selfish nature of why I design gives way to something bigger. The best design is also a middle way between selfishness and selflessness.

I'm spending the summer working as a designer in San Francisco. I'll try to return the book in some karmic form or other.