The Objectivist Designer

I recently finished reading “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. I enjoy reading some philosophy now and then so I knew plenty about Rand and her ideas of objectivism before reading the novel.

Objectivism, put bluntly, is the idea that the proper way for one to live is to be selfish and egotistical. To live any other way is immoral.

An obectivist, then, lives only for themselves and doesn’t live their life through others. An objectivist designer designs solely to please themselves. An example of someone who lives their life through others is a designer who designs for the sole purpose of pleasing their client. In Rand’s novel she calls this kind of person a “second-hander.”

In the real world, there are the great, selfish, egotist designers, and the ones that are best able to copy the style of the great designers.

Why is one better than the other you ask? Well, Rand would argue that man’s greatest achievements come from the selfish egotist of our society and if they were anything other, their achievements would not have been possible. Rand cites wheels, fire, cars, and planes as examples in her novel. The creators of these inventions and others like it were shunned by society. In some cases, it wasn’t until years later that the genius of their ideas were truly understood. Had these inventors been second-handers they would have been too focused on society and how others viewed them to think of and commit to the ideas.

So in the design realm how does objectivism work? Shouldn’t pleasing the client be the number one goal? It seems foolish for an objectivist to put their beliefs into practice in this field, and most designers would agree.

Design is structure adapted to purpose and that’s where the creativity comes into play. The client gives the designer the purpose, and it is up to the designer to provide structure.

Rand, obviously, would disagree. She would say designers should design for themselves and if another person likes their design style, this client would pay the designer to do a project but with the understanding that the completed project would be like the designers other designs. In other words, unique and innovative styles are often the result selfish designing. The result of such may be the attraction of clients. These clients, however, should not ask the designer to design in any other way than their own. If such a designer comes across such a client, they would not accept the project because in essence they would be selling their souls.

In a world of second-hand designers, why should a client choose one designer over another? There would be no great reason, besides price and the social skills of the designer to stand out as somehow better in doing the same.

The second-hand designer cannot design in their own way because it does not exist. They borrow the styles of others. They have no problem, therefore, designing in whatever way the client asks. So what a client gets when they ask a second-hand designer to do work for them is a regurgitation of other designers styles adapted to the purpose of the project at hand. The client may be happy, but design suffers. This results in little progression in the medium.

In a world of second-hand designers, why should a client choose one designer over another? There would be no great reason, besides price and the social skills of the designer to stand out as somehow better in doing the same.

The world is not full of only second-hand designers though. In the real world, there are the great, selfish, egotist designers, and the ones that are best able to copy the style of the great designers.

Lastly, I want to mention that to be a objectivist designer does not mean one doesn’t consider the clients needs. Design is structure adapted to purpose and that’s where the creativity comes into play. The client gives the designer the purpose, and it is up to the designer to provide structure.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 6th, 2009 at 8:52 am and is filed under Advice, Philosophy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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