To me it is obvious that humans should be the primary preoccupation of design. Then again, a lot of things are obvious to me, which seem not to be obvious to the general public, if there is such a thing. Like what? Oh, I don't know, how about the fact that economies produce people, not goods and services, for starters'? Yet economies are measured in GDP and we are obsessed with size size size, rather than whether our country produces people whom anyone wants as company.

A few days ago, my husband put on a nice little Netflix documentary series about design called Abstract. In the episode I watched, Ilse Crawford, a legendary interior designer, who literally wrote the canonical book of her industry, preached about human-centered design. Her designs are clearly human centered, which means they take into account how humans will behave in a space and the meaning, thus the value, which that space will have for them. Her spaces are stunning, and like clean dry sheets and a spring breeze, the downy stuff of comfort.

In a voiceover at the end of the episode, she tells us that humans need to be put back into the center of design, and all it takes to do this is for each individual to decide that it is important. While I agree with the imperative, I totally disagree with the design. First of all because there are no individuals. People are creatures of meaning and they understand themselves always with borrowed terms, inherited from unknown relatives. Second because nothing important ever happened individually. Every great achievement was a collective effort, even for the artist who incarnates meaning in a solitary act.

Placing humans at the center of design will take nothing short of a total revolution, and a revolution that first and foremost requires us to stop confusing isolation and alienation for freedom. These are the terms that institutional violence have allowed for its subjects: you are free when you are unbothered, unrestricted, individual, and moot.

Placing humans at the center of design means redesigning our ontology, our thoughts, our work schedules, our cities and towns, our homes, our public spaces, our values, our religion, our aesthetic, and our senses. It doesn't start with the individual. It starts when individuals realize they are brothers in the same slave ship, though they lack a common language and a common history. It is not easy, and nobody has time.

I'm glad that IKEA is getting a better restaurant, though, but the yuppies shopping at IKEA are probably there because their salaries don't allow them to buy locally made furnishings, from the humans in their own communities. How to reconcile this with the revolution we need is the real design problem.

But you gotta get paid? Well, hey, that's just the way it is.