Spiritual dimension falling victim to materialism

I read with interest Tim Rich’s Private View on values and responsibilities in relation to design (DW 7 February), especially his example of the trivialising of Shaker ideals for marketing purposes.

Why are there so few examples in our recent Western culture of a spiritual dimension to designing and making? Most other cultural references come from traditions of the past, for example, Zen in Japan and the Sufi influences in North Africa and Central Asia, and these are vanishing as materialistic values spread.

It seems design is so wedded to the material world and the superficial values of a consumer society that few of us wish, to break out of the mould.

I’m not saying the design industry (whatever that really is) could become a vehicle for spiritual regeneration and certainly not a celibate vehicle. But the case of the Shakers is a compelling, strange example, because their products addressed simple, everyday requirements, yet transcended the ordinary with their levels of innovation and manufacturing skills.

Their vision and discipline still influences and fascinates due to its practical modernity, yet it was driven by a way of living and believing that is alien to most of us now.

Design is not religion, but it can demonstrate the interplay between the inner and outer worlds of human experience. While our knowledge of material-based technologies has advanced, understanding the real nature of creativity and our inner selves hasn’t.

Designers have to serve their chosen clients and industries in order to work, but while under pressure from these forces perhaps we should ensure that the ‘doors of perception’ have not shut behind us.

Max Clements


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