What we do is simple and elegant design

One possible origin of design can be found in the early 16th century. At the beginning of the modern era, the idea emerged that society could be shaped through...

One possible origin of design can be found in the early 16th century. At the beginning of the modern era, the idea emerged that society could be shaped through the design of the living environment. A God-given order did not determine our lives; it was rather people who shaped the world—this, at least, was the basic idea. An excellent example of it can be found in the philosophical work Utopia, in which Thomas More (1478–1535) created an ideal society.1 This society’s realization depended on the way cities, villages, and settlements were arranged, and the way houses, furnishings, clothing, and meals were configured. Today, all of that is included in design.

Another possible origin of design is discernable in the late 18th century. During the Enlightenment, many rulers tried to improve their states and educate their subjects according to their perceptions of the ideal. To that end, they trained artists, craftspeople, and producers, who, following the ancient Greek model, were meant to make objects for everyday use, thereby strengthening the economy and cultivating “good taste” in the populace.2 In the design of these objects, the desire for economic growth was combined with moral goals. The rulers’ humanistic ideals were meant to be passed on to the subjects through everyday objects. This linking of the moral and economic reappears in almost all later periods of design.

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