RSA's Director of Design Emily Campbell just celebrated three years of working here, and future plans, with plentiful bubbly and some highly inclusive gluten free chocolate cake.
Before joining the RSA I had no idea what 'Design' meant. I thought it was something vaguely connected to architecture and buildings, and had no particular need, or so I thought, to think otherwise. Now I hope I am confused on a much higher level. Largely because of the influence of Emily and colleagues, I see that Design is a way of thinking, of inventively reimagining the world. In fact now when I think about behavioural challenges, I find that cognitive frailties and behavioural foibles often look like Design problems in disguise.
The core emphasis of RSA Design is that everybody can become equipped to think like a designer. In this sense design is not about aesthetics, but about logic. Design is viewed here as a form of resourcefulness. Hence the expression 'You know more than you think you do.' Any thinking person, and even those who don't think much, can be given some experience of the perceptual and creative tools of a designer. The RSA believes that by taking on the mantle of a design perspective, you can unlock your own capacities to fashion systems and solve problems.
I should also confess that until recently Buckminster Fuller was a name I only dimly recognised, but after reading the following quotation(of which there are many) in the New Yorker I was keen to find out more about his work.
‘But Fuller was also deeply pessimistic about people’s capacity for change, which was why, he said, he had become an inventor in the first place.
“I made up my mind . . . that I would never try to reform man—that’s much too difficult,” he told an interviewer for this magazine in 1966. “What I would do was to try to modify the environment in such a way as to get man moving in preferred directions.”’
This is sagacious insight, and gave me pause. But of course choosing between people and the environment is a false dichotomy. What matters is to understand deeply how the two are connected, and work with that understanding to change the world. We know more than we think we do, and should face our challenges with that understanding.