Designers, also being people and therefore being required to eat and inhabit and all those other things that require money, have to work for payment. If you work for payment, you are working for someone else, which means you are exchanging your work for his money. In this way, your work is, actually, the work of the client, and it must fulfill the client’s aims and values, not the designer’s. The client, in it’s turn, is trapped in the same situation, and must therefore work for his own clients, which means making things (or services) that sell, which means obeying the market™, which means enforcing some lower instincts of humanity, namely avarice and greed, or in other words the drive to consume, the impulse of having more and more.
That puts designers in a ambiguous situation. Being project makers, they must always try to make the best of their initial circumstance. They must make things better. But by making the client’s thing better he will make it worse, because a better thing for the client will enforce the vicious cycle that consumerist society is trapped on.
This is a reasonable hypothesis. It seems to explain some situations in our daily lives. Some people are even willing to plan their lives according to this basic phenomenon of “needing to sell out”.
Unfortunately, it is the kind of idea that cannot be false or true. You can’t verify if “The Market™” wants to make people consume more, because you can’t talk to The Market™. The examples of “corruption by The Market™” can’t prove that the market is the cause of corruption. The predictions of the idea are not reliable enough.
I don’t deny the influence of the Market. And i don’t think (so-called) “capitalism” will lead us to a age of plenty and happiness. I just want to show that this idea of the market’s influence is only an interpretation, not an independent and neutral description of the world.
A project is a complex thing, involved by many different influences, where it is sometimes impossible (and unnecessary) to say which forces are principal and which are secondary. That is to say that designers should think about the market, yes, but also about culture, style, personal preferences, ethical ideals, philosophical standpoints, history, politics, graphical technique, psychology of perception, communication, digitality, programming languages, and whatever more she deems interesting — and treat all those imposters just the same. None of that is the heart of design, but neither is The Market™!
Nevertheless, there are certain people who are trying to convince you that it is. That saying the market is a neutral influence is like saying the rain falls upward. Sometimes you can be mistreated just for saying something as banal as that marketing is marketing department’s business. Norberto Chaves even makes a call-to-arms in those words:
“We have replaced love for consumption.”
Consumerism is something to be dealt with by designers. But it is not a matter of good versus wrong, or Market versus Ideals, or Capitalism versus Morality, or Consumption versus Love!
The Market™ is nothing more and nothing less than the group of people who are involved into buying and selling. To say that the Market has a corrupting influence is the same as saying that people force designers to do bad things for people.
I believe the central issue is really another one — that design can seduce people into doing what is wrong for them. People are easily seduced by appearances, and so are designers. This is not a bad thing in and of itself.
(Actually, designers should be strongly aware of the seduction power that a good finishing has, but unhappily this is not true of most of them!)
By saying that it is the market that drives designers to make things that are deceitful for the “end user” we might be triggering prejudices that will prevent ourselves to see any proof that the world works differently. This is called confirmation bias, and is very common. It causes people to be unable to see anything that doesn’t conform to their own idea of the world.
In the case of a professional discourse (that is, a way of thinking for a class of professionals) a confirmation bias can lead us to adapt ourselves to The Market in such a way that we will follow those so-called market influences even when they are weak, ambiguous, or when they do not inhibit new and unheard-of ideas.
This theory that The Market™ forces designers to make things that are not Good™ is a self-fulfilling prophecy — if one believes it blindly, it will come to be true just because one did believe in the first place.