When I left corporate design I was a self-loathing designer. I felt
like I was doing nothing but making pretty stuff for rich people at the
expense of some poor worker. Many designers I talk with are eaten up
with the shame over low-cost Asian sourcing. The lack of control you
feel in the corporate system when your products fly off to be made in
God-knows-where is very troubling. But as one of the key connections
between the factory floor and the market, designers have a pivotal role
to play in this, the real futuristic world we live in, where everything
is indeed made by hand. It is now time for designers to assert that
responsibility. Each generation of Industrial Designers raises a
particular issue to the forefront. In the 80’s it was universal design.
In the 90’s it was sustainable design. I believe that the shame of
exploitative manufacturing is what this generation has to face.
These are William Gordon‘s powerful and moving words in his article titled "16 Manufacturers, 175 Products, 7 Weeks:Reflections on a mission to Manila" currently up on Core77. All I can say is read his story about his experience in the Philipines and reflect upon, as I did, the words he ends his article with,
My experience designing for Filipino manufacturing was one of the most
enriching of my life. I learned that people-centered design has a
middle component, living between ethnography and interface. Hand
manufacturing is the reality in much of the world, and designers,
sitting at their desks sending off PDFs to unknown destinations, may be
a modern paradigm, but ultimately a hollow one. I would encourage
designers to go and visit where their products are made, and,
especially, with the people who make them.