The design of things is a business in selling optimism.

If you’ve read through this hallowed blog, you will come across much maligning of the discussions of the future. This is, of course, ironic because I am a designer and a designer’s business is the future. We think of things that don’t yet exist, and then, in theory, someone pays us to make them happen. More often than not, it is being paid to make it look like it might happen.

In general, this means we have to think of the best case scenario. We have to. This is how we usually make our money. We dress things up. In stark contrast to designers dressing things up, either physically or metaphorically are consultants, they dress things down. They tell you you’re doomed; you might try a couple of things and then hand you a bill thank you very much. Designers trade on optimism, not necessarily reality, and this is why we have so much utter shit in this world that is otherwise “designed.”

Everywhere they predicted flying cars. There were likely decades of slides and beautifully rendered illustrations of them. But no PowerPoint deck ever predicted AIDS or just about any massive, orange tinted geopolitical shift that’s happened since last June. Or that a large swath of people was going to be actively and fanatically trying to return to the middle ages. Or that vinyl would make a comeback.

It is not only that The Future is just not evenly distributed, but its also not linear. It’s all over the place, and this is partly the designer’s fault. You’ll have to take my word for it. Designers create visions of the future that always go in nice straight lines going up, up and away towards the day where they have to hand the client a bill. To get to that point where they can even imagine they’re going to get paid, designers know that they have to sell, and reality doesn’t sell very well, so designers don’t think about it much.

We are willing victims to the pitch, and the pitch can never be depressing or realistic. A realistic pitch, as in one where you say something like “Well you know Bob, we probably won’t get very far with this little gadget here, in fact, it is doomed if you ask me. So here we are, and I’m slapping this makeup on this pig right here. That’s right, that squealing thing under this really nice oak table. That.” This obviously never happens, well at least outside of films involving Seth Rogen.

We need to be more honest with ourselves and our clients. We need to as designers, and tech sorts of people say that this fancy flying car might look cool and yeah, so does this graph that shows the numbers going up and to the right, but that maybe we should look at the traffic on the ground and try to solve that first. Or maybe we need to find a different way of making a living.