Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral, written by Heinrich Böll is the much-quoted story about, not so much a fisherman and a tourist, but about the relation between self-realisation or happiness and one’s work-life.
The initial brief was about finding happiness and relationships within work, specifically for creatives working from home. I am perhaps rejecting that assumption to an extent. I would hope that everyone can find more rewards than just financial ones within their work. A sense of community, a sense of purpose, a sense of shared values. And that desire is only growing within Gen-Z. I am rejecting it not because it is something to which one shouldn’t, but because I believe it will be used to harvest even more of employees or independent contractors time. I think there is a danger that telecommuting and remote-working will be touted as freedom, much like Uber and Lyft drivers are promised entrepreneurship, and that the slide into gig-economy and independent contractor status devalues creatives and their work. I am not stating that every business within this sector is working actively towards this. However, my girlfriend – and more about her later – has just worked 8 hours straight and is now on a (basically) mandatory Zoom Happy Hour, something that will take longer than an hour and not be happy. This is supposed to be team and culture building.
This is not unique to the current situation, there are plenty of ‘fun’ things companies force their employees to go through in the name of team building and fostering company culture. But this enforced culture was never meant to benefit the employees. There is nothing wrong with companies acting like psychopaths, it is literally what corporations are, and I am using literally pretty correctly in the old sense here.
Offices > Cubicles > Open Floor Plan > WFH
Job for life >Frequently moving employers > Project-based employment > Independent contractor
I still like a book as a solution. A book provides a medium to address complex situations and share analyses and viewpoints from across the spectrum. However, it is not really the manifestation of the medium that matters (ok, it matter a bit or even a lot) but it and should have many outlets In many ways, it is a Governing body/bar exam and union. I don’t think this a single unilateral solution. Much like the previous brief, change has to start somewhere. A change like this needs buy-in from a large group of individuals with specific and unique problems. It could be a podcast, it could be a TED talk, it could even be a hashtag, but all of these things are meant as a spark to light a probably fairly long fuse. the book – and I don’t think I am clamouring to it for the sake of it – would argue for an organisation that regulates and protects creative practitioners.
Much like the existence of the Bar does not impact the judicial rights of citizens, nor prevents lawyers from working, an organisation that governs designers and upholds standards within the industry should not affect the ability of designers to work. And it should have benefits to both sides.
The question is how it relates to Service Design, well, how doesn’t it? Every aspect of the Service Design Methodology applied to this. Except, I suppose I wanted to subvert it. The classic model would be applied in an effort to benefit the agency. It would be used to create design solutions that would seem to benefit the employee. Digital tools, allowances to seemingly promote their well-being…I’m really not against Service Design, I have questions about its application. There are no ethics attached. However, they seemed a little bit implied, that it is to benefit someone over someone else. It is another toolbox before the problem approach. A weapon an is enemy even to its owner. It is not that I don’t understand Service Design, I own and have read the book
I am fortunate to have access to many designers of different generations, different disciplines, and different stages of their career, in order to gather data and generate information. It is something I have been for long before this brief or module even, but while there are similarities, there are also differences.
My more immediate research I still think is somewhat tainted by existential fears, but the acuteness and immediacy of the virus and exceptional situation has had many (but not all) educators that I know question what they have been teaching, and whether they are actually doing enough to prepare their students for the or a world.
There are many issues that are common or shared experiences to designers, free pitches, unpaid internships and some that may be specific, and these should all be included – eventually. In some ways, I am taking Sasha’s brief and her communicated problem and zooming out (get it?) to see that while the working-from-home problem is not unique to designers, it is a sector that will be easily adapted into remote working. Similarly, while this is one specific issue that designers face, it is also part of many problems. So by using the acuteness of the current crisis, to propose, advocate, galvanise a movement to create a body of some sort that has both regulatory and lobbying power, political or otherwise. At the very least licensing agency. A first step towards some form of union.
I don’t want to make Adobe products unavailable to anyone. But you can call yourself a therapist there are already organisations like the AIGA and D&AD, but these feel more like clubs and networking organisations that celebrate design rather than protect individual designers or advocate for issues beyond design specific ones
Identifying stakeholders and key partners. e.g. I very rarely agree with Chris Do, but on some of these issues we do agree. More importantly, this cannot be a unilateral approach fact getting as many design celebrities on board so that they help build the house rather than throwing stones at it once it has been completed in their neighbourhood (to rather stretch the metaphor) both strategically good, but also diversifies the thinking and viewpoints. Jessica Helfand, Stefan Sagmeister, Debbie Millman, Steven Heller, Garland, Mao, Walsh etc. should be part of this book, or invited to contribute.
I am not the person to be writing this. Both in terms of personality, experience, exposure; at best I would be an editor, though more realistically just a gadfly of a snowflake that triggers the avalanche.
Like Konrad Lorenz proposing a theory on aggression to (allegedly) get other scientists to start working in the same field. However, triggering a discussion is one thing, but these discussions burn brightly for a short time before being extinguished by the next issue. So perhaps before cold-calling busy (with work or ego), famous designers it should start more local (to revert back to the avalanche analogy) a white-paper presented at a conference, written by a small (or large) group of educators, escalate it to design education conferences (AICAD, WASC, etc.) so it becomes part of panel discussions, then (or simultaneously) global design conferences and organisations, D&AD, Indaba, AIGA. All with the continuous goal of creating a momentum that leads to a body that is an actual union in all but name.
Why do students expect so much from education and instruction, and yet so little from an employer? Is it solely the direction of the flow of money?
In the meantime, instead of looking at such a large and daunting task, I can actually just implement it into one of my classes. Too often, or not often enough yet, I have discussions about whether we are preparing students for employment, or butchering carcasses for a meat grinder,. (I use different words sometimes)
I think this would be a good time to incorporate a large chunk of work-from-home-flavoured ethics into the class and have the students carry these questions and thoughts with them. In some ways, this harks back to written communication week and the students as the audience and designers of the future.
Students are requesting refunds due to the isolation haven restricted their access to campus, labs, shops and hardware. The teaching continues though.
As an experiment, what happens when you almost stop teaching, give them a McGuffin assignment and point them towards the wilds of the internet with little to no support or encouragement. Then, hopefully before the revolt, reveal the true lesson, segueing into how this translates to remote working for professionals. And on the back of that – in a hopefully in appearance only – passing-the-buck-move, pass on Sasha’s brief to designers not yet corrupted by the cynical workings of ‘the industry’. I would want them to challenge my beliefs and find what works for them in their current situation. I do think that perhaps bottom-up and top-down could perhaps meet somewhere, it should be younger designers who will be doing this for longer and differently that make decisions or have a voice, (should they want it), but it is older designers, who have more experience and have been in the maelstrom and thus understand it better.
I am under no illusion that of all years, with mass unemployment and a tough market especially for young graduates, thoughts of ethics and right vs wrong don’t feature much when needing to pay back student loans, pay rent, and eat.
Education is not about filling buckets, it’s sometimes about planting seeds.
With only one week left this year, I will have to include these thoughts and questions for them in some form of farewell speech or email.
Genuinely, I think an email to my graduates would be an appropriate solution to this week’s workshop challenge – but I will do something else as well.