The Cultural Designer

David Trubridge gets it. He has an essay on his site that talks about a type of designer called a Cultural Designer.

All of this means that a new type of design must be created. I call this Cultural Design — design as we have never known it, at least for a very long time. The cultural designer will primarily design abstract lifestyles and rituals that allow us to lead a sustainable life. For the few objects that are needed, they will have much less to do with the physical workings of objects, and more to do with their effect — how they nourish us.

In rereading the function and purpose of this type of designer (as I remember reading it a year or two ago), I’m struck by the similarities that I feel I need to express now in my own life and work. Not only is culture a foundational element of this work but there also seems to be a spiritual aspect to it as well when he talks about the need for these objects to “nourish” us. Even his points about “rituals” seems to touch home on Alain de Botton’s Athiesm 2.0 message about the need to create rituals in our own lives that gives us a sense of connectedness with each other and the world and universe around us.

There is no cultural dimension,
nothing that creates a sense of identity
and above all there is no nourishment.
David Trubridge

Most important of all though he talks about existing design lacking the ability to create a sense of identity which he believes cultural design can help with. This struck home very deeply for me because not only do I feel this within my own life but also I know of other people who feel this same very way. In effect, while technology is helping us to connect with one another, it’s not really helping us to connect with one another, if you get what I mean. We need something that goes deeper than just functionality. It has to have a purpose and cultivate something meaningful within our lives. Right now, a lot of the technology that we utilize seems empty and lifeless to me. It’s not connecting us at a level that we need to be.

That said though, imagine the depth, complexity, and understanding that a Cultural Designer would need in order to pull something like this off. It would definitely require a lot of time and couldn’t be done quickly because you have to observe and test for more than just a functional capability but also a cultural capability. While one could be observed quickly after each iterative test, the second would require at least moderate long term usage to fully see its effects.