The 2012 class of MacArthur Fellows is suitably impressive, filled with amazing people doing incredible things in their chosen fields. From neurosurgery to journalism to geochemistry to astronomy to music, it’s all here… apart from design, that is.
I surely can’t be alone in noticing the distinct absence of any designers, really of any type. Sure, Olivier Guyon is designing telescopes and astronomical hardware. Benoît Rolland is creating violin bows. Photographers and film makers are here, too. These are amazing, amazing people, but they’re not “designers” in the traditional sense. Does this matter? Well, to me at least, the absence of a graphic artist, a typographer or a digital designer (say) speaks volumes about the state of the industry itself. The design industry pleads with itself to get the respect it is quite sure it deserves, while the rest of the world merely shrugs, if it pays any attention at all.
Perhaps most promising for the design industry as a whole is the acknowledgement of the work of Maurice Lim Miller, an innovator in the social space who, as his bio puts it, designs “
programs of mutual support and self-sufficiency that break the cycle of economic dependency for low-income families and build more resilient communities from the ground up.” From OpenIDEO to the Acumen Fund, attention is being paid to design in this space, and it presents a promising path to the future. But design educators, design professionals and, indeed, design writers, all have a lot of work to do to make a case more convincingly that this stuff actually matters.