Design Helps Us Deal With Change

On a recent jam-packed trip to New York City I naturally set aside a few hours to immerse myself in the latest MoMA art + design exhibitions. Seeing Matisse’s The Dance and Van Gogh’s Starry Night up close for the first time was truly breathtaking.

design change

Perhaps it’s my background in Industrial Design, but I was particularly drawn to the Applied Design exhibit located on the third floor in the Architecture and Design Galleries. The pieces on display during my visit explored some of the most intriguing and innovative areas of contemporary design: interactions, interfaces, the Internet, visualizations, socially minded infrastructures and products, 5-D spaces, bioengineering, sustainability, video games, critical scenarios, and furniture.

The exhibit entrance reinforced in my mind why designers play such an important, yet often under-appreciated, role in society:

One of design’s fundamental tasks is to help people deal with change. Designers stand between revolutions and everyday life: they make innovations manageable and approachable, so that they can be embraced and assimilated. For this reason, in the years to come, designers will increasingly be at the nexus of culture, politics, and society.

Design is not only about making things, people, and places pretty. Like the artifacts of applied design, it is sometimes ugly, but it is always meaningful, and it encompasses all the facets of human activity, including science, education, politics, and even war.

I found this written perspective of design (and the designer’s contributions) poignant in light of my visit to the partially completed 9/11 Memorial just 1-day earlier.
Overall the design of the 9/11 Memorial is not at all pretty but incredibly meaningful in so many ways, I feel almost unable to describe the nuances of the experience here.
Walking the perimeter of the WTC where the north and south towers once stood was chilling. Looking up towards the open sky and recalling the horrific events, now 12-years on, conjured distant memories of where I was and what I was doing on September 11 th 2001.

WTC survivor tree

Sitting beside the survivor tree, the lone callery pear tree that survived the 9/11 attacks, nursed back to health and replanted in the center of the memorial, you are struck with a sense of hope and recovery for the future.