I bought the book Design Your Self by Karim Rashid (fashion and furniture designer) the other day. Some of the things he mentions in the book is pretty common sense stuff (about how to live your life through balance), but there are a few interesting points. He mentions designers as being “cultural editors” and that there are three types of beings: “those who create culture, those who consume culture, and those who don’t give a damn about culture.”
I do agree that designers can have enormous cultural power to create fads and change the scope of culture. Look at the impact design has had on Apple–from the functional design of the iPod to the silhouette ads (influenced by the 1900 Victorian cuts). From aesthetics to mass consumerism, design not only affects our visual palette, but how we live and the bottom line. Japanese products are indicative of the design culture and the American market of product design has been catching on. Aesthetics sell.
To say that it’s only designers who have this power of “cultural editor” may be a bit presumptuous. Society is made up by many different types of people, and everyone can make a ripple in their own way–from academics to artists and everyone else in-between. Passion is what makes people “cultural editors,” not necessarily what your line of work is. That passion affects so many things: your outlook on life affects your relationships, demeanor, and the actions you take. I’ve heard people say that ‘work is who you are’, but I know plenty of people who can’t work in their field that they’re passionate about due to external circumstances, or are transitioning into what they love to do. If you have an external passion aside from work, that can provide happiness and a sense of balance.