This tweet and the ensuing conversation reinforced for me once again how inevitable it is that design aesthetic will manifest itself in “movements,” and that even though we’re in a digital era now vs. a purely physical one, this doesn’t mean that a subconsciously collective desire for objective aesthetic standards no longer exists. People, in this case clients, want a style because they want to understand where they fit. I find it interesting when designers don’t acknowledge this, or even (periodically) seem to see it*, when they desire to push beyond what exists and is repeatable in a currently common vernacular because it’s “stale”, without necessarily recognizing its cyclical alignment with similar movements in the past. It’s impossible to view aesthetic standards outside of the contexts of the culture (economic and symbolic) that dictate them. There’s a reason that things start to look the same; because that’s what people will pay for. The market rewards familiarity. This is why design history is such an important aspect of design eduction; this has happened over and over and over.

The question becomes, then, what is the fundamental mission of formal design education? Is it to push the discipline forward, as is the case with so-called “critical” design programs? Or is it to prepare students to operate well within the present commercial market, to be able to take cues from culture, to become effective professional practitioners? Too often I see students who come out of the more academic programs who are completely unequipped to work in the “real world,” while I inversely interview seemingly hundreds of young designers who have slick portfolios, but no critical perspective on the discipline. This dichotomy seems like a failure of design eduction, and is probably what we should be working on fixing.

*At this point I'm reaching way back into provoked memory, far past the cited tweet, which at face value I actually agree with.