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Having just finished reading Naomi Klein’s book Doppelganger I find myself pondering over the relation between a highly suspicious, defensive and scared mirror world, and the way we design in a divisive society.

Picture of the book Doppelganger by Naomi Klein
The book Doppelganger, by Naomi Klein, screenshot from Klein’s website.

Divisive is the way many of us currently describe our society, and what we can see from a design point of view is that we are faced with decisions whether we are for or against something, and therefore comfortably can design it. Let’s look more at design in divisive times, Klein’s doppelganger framework and how the mirror world can take familiar concepts and reflect back a twisted version to us. How does all of this affect the way we act as designers shaping our world?

Design in a politically divided society

Design in profoundly political (The Politics of Design refers to Tony Fry’s Design as Politics) and politics seems more divisive now after having lived through a pandemic that made us choose to be for or against vaccines, masks, mandates, gatherings, and so on. Naomi Klein describes the polarisation in her latest book Doppelganger, from the perspective of a citizen and writer. What I’m wondering is how we, as designers specifically, can understand how our design plays a role in the future we are crafting together.

All the things we design are ideologically loaded, and Fry means that we can use the political power that design has, to bring on positive environmental change. He calls this “Sustianment”. That must mean that we of course can do the opposite and use design as a tool to not bring on positive environmental change, and instead cause environmental disaster. Klein describes in her book, the intricate strategies used by campaigners to create a united force of people going against things that they might not know much about.

I live in Aotearoa New Zealand, and last year we were shocked to hear that Australia voted no to introducing an indigenous voice in parliament. Mihingarangi Forbes looked at how the vote-no campaign was designed, funded and executed, and what we can expect here in Aotearoa New Zealand if we open up for the public to vote on indigenous…

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