This year’s theme for Melbourne Design Week is “Design the world you want”  which offers the slightest shift in gears from previous themes such as “How can design shape life?”, “How design can shape the future?”, “How design delivers change?” and “What does design value and how do we value design?” (For value see commodification, late stage capitalism, precarity etc etc). These themes are issued as incentives for participating in the programme and are posed with commercial design practitioners, and studios, in mind. This year’s theme makes a direct appeal to a designer or design studio’s stance as ‘creators’. It is an appeal harpooned directly into the designer godhead. It says you are part of a select cache with the privilege of designing the world you want.
For many, this ‘world shaping’ is simply not available. Sometimes we might get a sense of autonomy in shaping our surrounding environs through a form of extended collaboration, or self curation, occurring between us and designed material that collects around us. But mostly our worlds are shaped by tools that are jealously guarded by a coalition of councillors, consultants and their chosen suppliers.
General opinion is solicited — mostly off the back of white label applications such as The Hive’s suite of participatory tools  which have been pitched to and adopted by councils such as the City of Melbourne. These tools have allowed constituents to exercise some influence over basic decisions (according to predefined guidance), but as a councils’ enthusiasm for these types of online tools wanes, so does the city’s urge to seek out advice from — what is seen as — an amorphic blob of ‘publics’ that often prove meddlesome to the ambitions of said councillors and the wealthy development industry they frequently favour.
The term also ignores design that has already occurred. It invites designers to ignore the past and keep creating, keep propelling the ‘economy of ideas’ forward. This fosters the attitude that ‘the churn’ — the avid pursuit of ‘the new’ — is all. Here is a vision of the past as perpetually disappointing. A litany of wrong turns, ill-made decisions, mistakes and damaged goods proliferating in it’s wake. Keep facing forward — don’t look behind. Take up the motto, ‘No time to look back’. The design rhetoric of the commodified world will support you. It’s okay —…