There are two types of designs in this world: 1) fascist design, and, 2) democratic design. Both of these design philosophies pose their own problems and they both have their own type of results, but in the modern media age I think it's very dangerous to portray yourself as any designer with totalitarian methods and theories. When confronted with the chose between inclusive or exclusive, democratic or fascist, mom or dear old dad, what would you choose?
I've been re-reading Orwell's 1984 for the millionth time and I have finally found a common ground. The state of the design industry is under many, like all industries, continued and increasingly growing threats - the need for speed, a multi-media approach, social connections/networks, and exclusivity as a method for status. When I look at the client base that appears in-front of me daily, I am met with Prima Donnas who can't budget, have no concept of how long a design and renovation can take, and always want it for the smallest price tag or bargain basement price that they can get - mostly because they're already in debt to their eyeballs because of all the luxury brands that they must own. It's frustrating to say the least.
Creating exclusivity in design does not come at an authoritarian price-tag. Being exclusive can be done with tenderness, love, and compassion for all. One of the brands that I hold dear to the truly exclusive label is Brizo. Now, I'm not saying this because they send me or my buddies to New York for Fashion Week, I'm saying this because they take the time to get to know their bloggers and designers, but, most of all, they take the time to ask for feedback and do it in such an inclusive and empowering way. This is true exclusivity, a luxury brand that takes the time to know it's pimp.
Yet, there is a difference between true exclusivity and democratic design. Unlike a brand or product, design lacks a pre-packaged item crafted for the masses at a higher price. Design is a process with a set of circumstances, needs, and requirements, intertwined with a design style, to create a custom space that is not like any other space. Design is unique, exclusive, but it need not be restricted by culture, speech, surveillance, or terrorism. Design can be democratic, or inclusive. These are the smaller percentage of clients that I meet that I fall in love with quickly.
Establishing a democratic and inclusive design practice takes a big heart with lots of compassion, listening, a sensitive touch, but most of all it takes sympathy and not empathy. Democratic Design is the inclusion of the client in the magical process of designing their space. We need not leave the client in awe of what we do, but we can leave them with the un-relinquishing support of the difficult profession we have chosen. It's not easy, believe me. It's not a walk in the park either, but this career can change lives in the most subtle, and inspiring ways that one can never imagine.