Last week I hosted a Clubhouse Room with many other designers who shared conservative values. We talked about the overwhelming progressive mindset that pervades design thinking today. It’s almost impossible to find a designer who isn’t part of the radical left. As I wrote previously, it’s very common for designers today to think that the only “real design” is radical design. We all agreed that progressivism had overtaken any respect for beauty and order in the design world, to the extent that some people are described as designers for playing with human poop. It’s apparent that design principles were not at the wheel anymore. However, one participant named Darrell then brought up an interesting point: Is there a risk that promoting conservative values with design would ultimately do the same thing?
If you’ve been reading my newsletters then you know that I believe good design is ultimately rooted in conservative values. Many designers openly espouse leftwing values but in order to make it as a successful designer they live conservatively. Every one of them is hardworking, diligent, punctual, and organized so I don’t think that a return to conservative thinking would be a threat to the integrity of their design work - or design in general. It would be a realigning of their professed values with their actual values.
While a lot of people express concerns like this about ideology I think they have the cart before the horse. What Darrell was really worried about was how ugly progressive ideology has made everything it touches, and he applied that symptom to ideology in general. I think that is a mistake to do and we have ample historical evidence to suggest that the reason design has become ugly is that progressivism is ugly. From the medieval period, through the Renaissance, and into the Enlightenment, art and design were dominated by the desire to promote Christianity and traditional western cultural values like tolerance, virtue, and forgiveness. During that period spanning several centuries, the Christian ideological influence only led to more and more beautiful design. The modern onset of progressivism managed to wrest design away and use it to unravel most great societal staples. We’ve definitely come to a defining point when the Cathedral of Notre-Dame can burn with only a moment’s interest from the same public who will spend hours at MoMA, an “art museum,” appreciating feces. I’m not joking. Try this one. Or this one. And here too.
One of my favorite designs right now is the “God is A Designer” merchandise line. I ordered one of their embroidered snap-backs after seeing it on The Futur with Chris Do. It’s pretty clear that the artist behind the brand is not really promoting God. Rather it’s tongue-in-cheek. Ironically, the statement would be so much more powerful if it were genuine. Design is meant to be a force of order in the world, which is God’s great act: creating order from chaos. Progressives have worked hard to bring chaos to the fore and take the place of God. In some ways, design is the chance to play God in small ways, and the left was bound to appropriate design in order to fulfil their narcissism. But when we start to worry about the influence of ideology over design, rather than the power to order our ideology through design, it’s easy to forget that we are the agents of order. It’s not a big question.
It’s shockingly simple: If you don’t want things to be ugly, then don’t promote ugliness. Designers need the conviction to use design in the service of an orderly vision instead. What if every designer currently playing with turd decided to quit that today, and build the next great cathedral instead? It would be a better world.