In this visual essay, I outline a thrilling journey of intellectual exploration of reality through Design. Guided by the insights from my favorite School of Visual Arts mentor, Sarah Giovanitti, I have come to understand myself as a Designer with a capital “D”. Until very recently, I couldn’t grasp the full extent of this concept.
The Cosmic Intelligence of Design – Visual Essay by Maxwell L. Alexander – Published on: Nov 29, 2018
I have been pondering this for a while, but just a few minutes ago, something amazing happened at our favorite coffee shop: We had breakfast and were sitting in a rounded faux leather booth with a table in the middle. I left my phone in the car, hoping to be more present in our conversation, but I still had to apologize to my husband, Dino, for being consumed by my thoughts about this essay. As we were about to leave, I got up and to my surprise, bumped my head into a huge rounded orange lamp that had been hanging above us the whole time. I have a bit of a history with bumping my head into things, but this was different! The thought “Wow!” ran through my mind… Is this what just happened? The pure definition of a product of Design, an idea… An idea of a lamp hanging above the rounded booth, literally bumping into my head… I am really onto something here! Thank you, Universe!
Design is where ideas meet reality.
Thanks to advances in technology, we are entering a new and exciting era where freedom, creativity, and intelligence become the driving forces of progress. With more than 7 billion of us on planet Earth, it means the Universe has over 7 billion channels to funnel its cosmic ideas through.
As robotics and artificial intelligence work hard to liberate us from the pressures of physical existence, we find more time to not just be creative but also productive by using new ways to express and realize our creativity. This is where Design happens: at the specific moment in time and place where ideas finally meet reality.
Designer in everyone.
By being an extension and expression of the Universe, there is a Designer in each of us, and there hasn’t been a better time in the history of human civilization to unleash the creative genius and be a part of the amazing celebration of life and beauty.
Design is the language of the Universe, and being able to speak this language is the greatest gift and responsibility one can possess. I believe that we also have a responsibility to be productive every conscious minute of our lives. Productive, as the complete opposite of busy. I have learned that the process of creation is one of the surest things that makes us happy. Creation with a goal in mind, that is when we are most productive.
Happiness and Beauty.
Design is a celebration of life. If being productive by creating and bringing cosmic ideas into reality is the ultimate purpose of our existence, then there are no happier beings in this world than those who do it. The process of Design is very similar to the creation of chemical bonds, just like when a snowflake is formed, a bond is made, and energy is released. Only, Design operates in an emotional dimension as well as physical, therefore the energy release happens in the form of happiness. It’s amazing to realize that the process of creating beauty is the world’s largest power plant and an infinite resource of energy and happiness for generations to come. Why do we find certain things or ideas beautiful? I believe we are subconsciously attracted to gazing at the intelligence that shines through what we perceive. The more intelligent it is, the more beautiful it will appear.
Ever since my first class at the School of Visual Arts in New York, I’ve been struggling with composing my response to the definition of Art. Though, just 8 years later, life’s lessons have put it all into the right perspective. Ideas contained in a box are not any better than those still brewing in one’s head. Productivity is crucial to our existence, and producing something solely for the purpose of intellectual entertainment isn’t good enough.
When Art is just hanging on the wall, Design is moving us forward. We don’t exist if we don’t move, so the Designers of this world have an assignment to fulfill: create, build, expand, evolve, move us toward our destiny, and, of course, enjoy all of the above in the process.
When I went to engineering school back in Russia, science was my best friend and did a good job of interpreting reality at that point. Not until I hit the wall of limitations that are ingrained in the whole concept of science. Science is great at transcribing ideas, transcribing as in putting ideas in a box constructed with words and rules created in the past. Science cannot be 100% objective because it has to rely on a set of artificially described concepts. Yes, an apple might have fallen on Newton’s head, but the moment he wrote it down, the actual event was diluted to what written or spoken language could offer at the moment. At one point, the ideas are related to reality; however, as reality evolves and expands, many ideas thought to be written in the stone of spoken language, have become obsolete and now appear as mere decor atop the true meaning. Design finds an answer in a specific point in time where science might fail to interpret reality.
One fact we know about the Universe is that it is always expanding and changing. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves! It’s not our fault that we are addicted to newness, as it shows in our culture, the consumer economy, and social behavior. Let’s not fight it, but rather go along with it and use Cosmic Intelligence and Design to make it a sustainable journey.
I am proud of our generation. We are opening our eyes and finally waking up our senses. Millennials, to me, are the first generation of human beings that take being conscious very seriously. We don’t want to numb our feelings or bury our heads in the sand but are willing to face reality with all its problems and the abundance of eternal beauty and opportunities. We are finally realizing that our purpose in life is not to be a part of an industrial/corporate contraption with its artificial motivational tricks and gimmicks. Thankfully, technology is setting us free, and there are so many ways to express our creativity in a productive way like never before. Our biggest asset is what’s on the inside, and there is no reason to give up your freedom in exchange for the comfort of corporate benefits. We have found our purpose and are going full steam ahead with it!
It’s an amazing time to be alive! You can simply walk down the street or look at the grocery store shelves to see the cosmic intelligence peeking through branding, marketing, displays, and packaging design at an unprecedented level like never before. We are no longer appealing to our animal instincts. We are done with quick and easy plastics, but going back to the eternal and sustainable basics that the Universe has given us. Through amazing Design, we are now talking directly to the cosmic intelligence inside each of us, and it feels great! Kudos to you, Millennials.
The universal language.
Design is the language of the Universe, and in our dimension, it is the only truly universal way to exchange and realize ideas. Russian, Chinese, and English dominated the intellectual output of past generations, but in the new era of creative intelligence & Design, we are moving past spoken and written languages, embracing the universal way of expression. After all, spoken language is just as artificial as the artificial ideas it describes.
Design is a process, a process that actualizes thoughts and brings them into reality. Spoken ideas are unrealized ideas queued for execution, and a vast majority of them will never make it into reality. The language of Design, on the other hand, is spoken by everyone: from the moment a baby learns to hold a spoon, she starts speaking Design by interacting with it, touching it, and seeing it. A simple spoon or any other product of design could be successfully used in the Americas, Russia, or Bangladesh without any instructions. Great Design will be understood, though, with minor cultural deviations, it will be the same for everyone. As I am typing this right now, advances in user experience and user interface design & technology are moving us towards the abandonment of spoken languages, making them just a piece of decor on top of the true meaning expressed through Design.
Design is the language of the Universe; anyone can understand it, but those who can speak it fluently are the luckiest beings alive. There will be a time when written and spoken languages will vanish, and ideas will flow freely without the constraints and limitations of the past.
Design Thinking is very different from what happens inside your head. It is not a process of spinning words or concepts created by someone who came before you. A good part of it happens outside our minds, and this is how the Universe shares its wisdom with us, Designers. Design thinking happens on the edge of physical, emotional, sensorial, and intellectual realms. It is much more dimensional and expansive, thus much more effective when it comes to bringing ideas into reality.
We need more Designers in politics! Designers naturally distance their egos from the decision-making process. They are better at seeing the bigger picture and focus on providing solutions through Design Thinking. Designers are doers, not just talkers. After all, they are channeling the wisdom of the Universe, so wouldn’t it be great to be governed by the same principles that created all that is?
Anyone can comprehend the language of Design, but fluently speaking it is a virtue of well-trained Designers. I believe that formal education is one of the most efficient and credible ways to develop a “design muscle”. In this day and age, when every other TV personality comes out with a “design advice book” on a weekly basis, it’s easy to get distracted. Great Designers who fluently speak Design often become victims of societal and economic atavisms of the past, when Design was nearly treated as decor. But the strongest will survive, and this is true for Designers as well.
I see our Culture as a collection of labels. No one likes labels, but they are a necessary tool we cannot live without. Labels are a cultural language that helps us keep things concise. They are compacted concepts that help us move quickly and save time – our greatest commodity. Here lies the opportunity for a Designer – redefining a label is like adding a totally new word to a dictionary. It’s exciting! Designers create culture by compacting, visualizing, and bringing into existence ideas that otherwise would float like soup in the infinite matrix of the Universe.
Although there are many great ideas out there, not all will meet reality. I view the Economy as fertile soil that helps grow our ideas. While the Universe is infinite, Human Society is not, and therefore, there is a limited amount of resources that can be allocated to bringing an idea into existence. As Designers, we must always think about how our ideas will make economic sense. Designers are in the business of Creation and, just like in any business, there is a bottom line to keep in perspective.
There is no doubt that the majority of the testosterone-powered, fossil fuel-burning corporations created by previous generations will cease to exist. They are in unfair competition with the new generation of soft and intelligent power of Design that is gradually overtaking economic and political landscapes. Designers create the world around us. Every Design decision is like a drop in the ocean; some of them will resonate with the Universe and become a powerful tide. A powerful tide that could either sweep and destroy or build and create Beauty on a whole new level!
We trust what we see with our own eyes, hear with our own ears, and touch with our own hands. Therefore, it’s harder to believe in ideas that have not yet been designed. It’s our nature to instinctively trust our senses. Ideas that have been brought into reality through Design have completed a rigorous process of validation and actualization in the world we live in, hence they come across as more trustworthy. It’s not the medium in which ideas were actualized that matters, but the fact that they were made real, making them more tangible and, yes, valuable!