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Reading 4 "Is Design Political?" by Jennie Winhall


KEYWORDS:

activism, ideology

Design, like politics, is an attempt to challenge the status quo and improve the quality of life for ordinary people. Architecture is no exception. Buildings are designed to serve a specific purpose or set of purposes, with a clear program or set of programs in mind. A building's designer can oppress, liberate, seclude, expose, horrify, or glorify a person. Elements of authoritarian propaganda (Nazi or Soviet buildings, insignias, banners, clothing, etc...) were designed to intimidate and oppress. Churches are designed to welcome and invite. Many newer homes and offices are designed to be environmentally friendly. Like the design of a political program, or platform, design impacts the lives of people. Thus, designers are activists who work to shape society in a certain way. Ideology has been applied through design just as it has through politics. I think Winhall sums it up nicely in saying, "Design is not a neutral value-free process."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1) Winhall claims that with new ideology comes new design. What are some recent societal ideological shifts that have prompted new design?

2) Winhall leaves it up to debate: Are designers responsible for the consequences of their designs?