What is Being? Well, that is not an easy question to answer. Over the years of human existence, one commonality that has been prevalent has been the attempts of people to identify just what the hell their purpose is. What are they here to do, how do they live, what do they live for. Just as we have been asking these questions, people have been trying to answer them. Through the lens of philosophy, we have come upon numerous interpretations or theories on how to live. In design, we ourselves are in search for a philosophy — who are designers but not molders of people and culture? — and this is where Heidegger comes in.
Heidegger is so influential in design due to his concept of being — Dasein. Heidegger theorizes that the manner we find meaning in the world is through our context with it. While Plato and Descartes attempted to separate the human condition from all worldly matters, Heideggerian theory denounces this — our identities do not exist in a vacuum- but that we find meaning through our interactions and context with our environment. We are as human as our created environment is.
This theory directly extends and grafts onto what it means to design. Heidegger also theorizes that the tools we use have no meaning until they have a human interaction. They remain present-at-hand, as objects to be pondered without any use, until they are in use and read-at-hand. These tools, he says, find meaning by becoming part of us, an extension of us. We become the hammer by wielding it. That is the purpose of the tool. By extension, these Heideggerian principles apply to all manners of products and design. The purpose our tools and designs serve us is to , as he puts it, fight the totalitarian dictatorship (ironic, considering his political ideology) of everyday-ness — a concept that both keeps us safe from insanity, but at the same time condemns us to living in this structured life.
Yet, it is this idea of tools and being that allow us to live our lives in the way that we do. In these contexts, the idea of tools and being become one — the concept of read-at-hand evolves into the concept of invisible design. Good design is invisible — not literally, but figuratively (although invisibility would definitely be welcome). For us to be comfortable in our ever-evolving world, design needs to be seamless and ready — it must merge and adapt to our sense of being at any time. In addition to this, it is important to remember that our tools exist in totalities and ecologies. These contexts are crucial for understanding that design is inter-related to everything around us — there are infinite variables that are all around us that impact us in minute ways that we need to be conscious about.
But how come no one has thought of this? Well, we were told that people have — it just wasn't thought of as being important. Only now have these ways of thinking come to the forefront of design education and thinking, amidst the growing concerns of our globalized fast emerging digital landscape and all the ethical and moral conundrums it faces in an evolving society. Slowly, as the systems of knowing in education change around the world, perhaps we will all come to consciousness over what it means to be in this world, and what it means to design in it.