Design & Hacking

In order to meaningfully shape the future, design must challenge and overturn entrenched systems, not simply create new packages for yesterday’s ideas. 22 Nov 2012

If design is treated as a neutral or implicitly good activity, it becomes merely a function of marketing and advertising. For design to be the radical activity that it can and should be, it must incorporate the spirit of hacking.

In a seminal post, Paul Buchheit describes hacking as a search for the actual rules of a system, as opposed to the perceived or claimed rules. It’s a search for truth.

Hacking is an overloaded word in our culture. It’s a search for truth, but it’s also a search for vulnerabilities and the means to exploit them. It often operates in the space between right and wrong. Taken far enough, hacking changes the world. It creates a new system with new rules by destroying the old system. It’s hard not to evoke shades of Nietzsche here.

Design that doesn’t attempt to achieve systematic change is merely style. The stylist produces fashion that is easily incorporated into the existing order of things. In order to meaningfully shape the future, design must challenge and overturn entrenched systems, not simply create new packages for yesterday’s ideas.

This post is part of my ongoing work on Open-Source & Peer-to-Peer Software