Designers have missed the SuperHumanism point

I think Design Week’s SuperHumanism exercise (DW 6 December) largely missed the point.

SuperHumanism, as I understand it, was devised around realigning the design and communications industry to focus on providing benefits aimed at addressing the needs of humanity. However, the DW exercise has failed to broach this challenge.

If a parka-cum-sleeping bag is the answer, then what is the question? Surely it is more important to combat homelessness than facilitate it. I think the concept is fraught with other problems – the mark of the homeless underclass.

I am also baffled as to where the Digit idea fits into the SuperHumanism agenda. It is a nice idea to have occasional private access to a swimming pool and barbecue, but I do not see this as a humanity-level life enhancement. If we want to look at a genuine challenge, surely we should be considering a radically different type of park, where women are safe and dog shit instantly disintegrates.

DW’s challenge seems to have baffled some of the designers. Where a humanity level solution is being called for, we are instead being offered brands – devices for communicating perception.

Iqara is presented as a manufactured perception of an environmentally friendly gas company – But, oil and gas are among the greatest threats to the global environment. A manufactured environmental brand, with well-designed forecourt architecture, fronting a fossilised fuel product set, is not a solution – it is a disguise.

I would agree that there is a benefit in harmonious filling station design – perhaps this, in isolation, has a place in a SuperHumanist agenda. However, to pretend that this is the front end of an environmentally beneficial organisation is cynical manipulation.

Similarly, The Nest has offered up brands as a response to the needs of humanity. The substance seems lacking: branded portals based on established knowledge and linked to healthy or clean products and services. But there’s already a plethora of greener-than-thou services out there for those who choose to look. The only new idea here is the umbrella branding – which, in itself, is inert.

Why seek to highlight the good stuff among all the bad stuff? The real solution is to supersede the bad stuff altogether. As Seymour Powell director Richard Seymour so succinctly put it at the British Design & Art Direction lecture in March, ‘…gang up on the bastards’.

All of which suggests SuperHumanism is not entirely, or even primarily, a design manifesto. In fact it convinces me that the creative industries can contribute by seeking to provide, for example, a 21st century something with as much potential as the bicycle or the telephone. In the meantime, we might retain more clarity of purpose by recognising that, for example, homelessness and the environment initially requires social, economic and political solutions.

For SuperHumanism to have any longevity, it needs to protect itself. If ill-considered concepts are launched under the banner of SuperHumanism, it will erode the whole initiative.

David Yates

Head of design

Marlborough Stirling

Cheltenham GL50 3SH

david.yates@marlborough-stirling.com

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