Designers & their politics

I’m reluctant to post this question, especially with (ever-partisan) Americans in the room, so let’s keep it classy. But I’m curious…

How do we as designers typically sit on the political spectrum? More left? More right? More grey-area libertarian? More green? Less green? Etc? Is it a mistake to try even try to make this generalisation within a professional group?

You’ll find that the entire spectrum is covered on this forum, and like-wise as designers in general.

Like everyone, I want my politician to serve my interests. While I fully understand everyone’s interests will never be exactly like mine and that is the purpose of the political process, I’m still going to push for wiifm.

If I can bring business into the discussion, I am a believer in Michael Treacy’s value principles. In a nutshell, he writes a company has only 3 core offerings for their customer - product innovation, customer intimacy, and operational ingenuity. Apple is the obvious example of product innovation. The Apple Store is an example of customer intimacy - it is the experience the customer recieves from the company. WalMart with its scale, use of outsourcing and distribution, is the leading example of operational ingenuity.

That said, if you look at the US (sorry Canadian and English core77 people), we compete best in the world with regards to product innovation. We will never have the operational ingenuity of China. Customer intimacy is possible, but I don’t see any great strides in that area.

As it turns out, I think designers in general are deeply rooted into the product innovation camp. So I want to see my politicians encouraging and even assisting the product innovation process. I will directly benefit and I believe the country will also benefit. The politician walking that walk will get my vote. I don’t care if they are red, blue, green or purple.

Yep. We all come from many different backgrounds and have many different views when it comes to politics. In the US you will find that most are very private about them as well.


I think the moderators are, predictably, being a bit diplomatic. It’s not really correct to say “we all come from different backgrounds and have many different views.” Design academics are pretty firmly ensconced in Liberal Elite Consensus, a lot of "issues " in Design today either make no sense or sound creepy unless you take for granted certain extremely ideological(and ideologically extreme) assumptions about how the world works and how problems should be solved. The “diversity” is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Now it takes a lot of mental effort to actually build up and maintain a remotely coherent ideology(which requires accepting things you don’t personally like in the name of your principles,) especially when you have kids to feed, so like most people not in the bubble universe of academia 24/7, most working designers just don’t.

Would it be possible to make the thread into a poll, without the ability to reply?

We are still all individuals with our own thoughts. Just because you go to design school does not mean that you through you background and upbringing away. It would be a bit ridiculous to say that design school turns you into a liberal, Republican, Democrat or any other political party.


Actually it would be not ridiculous at all to say that most schools are at least attempting to turn you into someone of particular views. Design programs are a little more practical and reality-based than anything with “Studies” in the title, but nonetheless, it’s not ridiculous at all. It’s not necessarily going to work, it’s not even necessarily conscious, but if you(student, faculty,) want to get along in your world, you need to voice the “right” opinions when asked, even if what you actually DO runs counter to them. Grief, when you actually do listen to designers talking politics you’d think they were undercover agents trying to destroy global Capitalism from the inside.

The above are influencers, but that does not discount the fact that everyone is an individual from many different parts of the world (most design school in the US are flooded with international students) and raised differently. Just taking the US for example. I would think designers that were raised in California, would have drastically different views that those raised in southern Georgia or those raised in NYC versus those raised in Texas. I am stereotyping here so please excuse me for that, but to say you are going to throw those views away when you attend design school is a bit much. Our culture and surrounding create deep beliefs when it comes to political parties and political issues such as immigration, abortion, same sex marriage, just to name a few. Now if we are talking sustainability, alternative energy, etc…then yes I can see all of us maybe having similar views, but politics is much more than that.


Anyone think one way in school and shift their view once they hit the real world? I know I have change my opinion on many things as I gain experience in my life.

I have change my opinion on many things as I gain experience in my life

You mean, you learned ? That was never heard of, at least not in politics…

There is a saying in German, that I’d like to try to translate:
[Rubbish, I looked it up and it is attributed to Churchill, never mind I still like it:]

"Any 20 year-old who isn’t a liberal doesn’t have a heart, and any 40 year-old who isn’t a conservative doesn’t have a brain. "


That’s pretty good!

I’m completely with JimC5 on this one. And no, I’m not interested in being polled or telling who I am voting for or why [ on this site].

Nurb & PackageID, absolutely people’s specific cultural contexts determine their views. And moi & Nurb, yes, working within industry requires that an individual adjusts his or her idealistic views to the scope of what seems ‘realistic’ from that vantage point. I’m at the beginning of my design career, in my early 30’s, and feeling that pivot happening… JimC5 you’re right to point out that people voice the opinions that are expected of them… whether some of us do actually buy into the ‘Liberal Elite Consensus’ or not. I myself definitely do… or don’t… not telling :slight_smile:

What I’m curious about is designers’ view toward change in society, and our role in this both as individuals and within institutions. (Change in society requires a change in power. Politics is essentially about power.) I would guess that designers are in many ways more progressive than the general population. We are more inclined to critically assess a situation as it is and generate novel visions of how it could be. We may be more individualistic: we see change coming from the ideas we sketch as individuals and know the power that can come from a small group of dedicated creators. At the same time, we are intimately acquainted with the institutional & systemic complexities involved in implementing change.

Regardless, what our values are seems sort of like a crap shoot: to each his own. I would guess that designers can be represented across all spectrums. I’ve noticed lots of pro-lassaiz faire small business stuff (ie kickstarter), but then there’s the folks working within big business. Doesn’t seem like there are too many designers in the the pro-gov’t/regulation camp. Or are there? (How many of us get R& D funding…) Lots of pro-sustainability stuff, but also there are plenty of designers who uncritically lust over consumer product culture. Lots of ‘design for humanity’ pro- ‘ignored users’ stuff, and then there are the people who can’t be bothered with it. Basically I’m describing the range of values I saw within my ID graduating class last year.

Is there anything about our attitude toward change that we can generalise? I hold my values close to my heart, and I chose ID as the means through which I can impact the world, so integrating my values with the tools at my disposal is important to me! I’m hoping to gain insight into what those tools are…I’ve had the academic perspective clearly outlined, but a professional’s opinion is a whole other story!

What’s a “Liberal Elite Consensus”? What is your evidence that design academics are firmly ensconced in it? Is that all design academics, or a portion?

Since it was capped, I googled it. The second hit was this thread.

“Why aren’t there any right wing folk singers?”

Could be applicable to this thread…?

I try to support candidates rather than parties. That’s the way I wish more people thought so I try to practice it myself.

That being said, they are all scumbag politicians at the end of the day.

You got that right, Ryan. They are ALL scumbags.

Can we discuss religion next?

Great thread.

My experience is that people are drawn to design for many different reasons. There are some hippies that want to do art and change the world. There are some entrepreneurial libertarians who want to create a start up and become millionaires. Then, there are a bunch of people somewhere in between. BTW, this includes the professors.

Now, I’m in business school and let me tell you, hippies are far between and few!

As a few people have brought their philosophies into the discussion, I’ll bring a little of mine. I’m for results above sticking to some kind of rigid philosophy. I think that’s why I stay in Canada! Canadian policies are left and right with little in between. However, it works. You can’t always tell what’s going to work until you try and it requires a mature society to accept policies that might seem to go against their philosophy, but work.

Case in point, even the most extreme Canadian conservatives accept some form of publically funded universal healthcare. Meanwhile, the most extreme socialists accept that a robust capitalist market responds better to people’s needs than nationalizing everything*.

Last, I would be glad to tell everyone who I’ll vote for president. I vote in Arizona, so it really doesn’t matter what I choose. My representatives in the Electoral College will be voting for Romney no matter what I think.

*That comment might sound unrealistic to Americans, but in places where there are still socialists, it’s not considered that crazy.