Satisfaction is an uncommon commodity. In the context of work and in tough times, its scarcity and value rises like that of gold—the accumulation of which for some is satisfaction. Designers cannot rely on generous material reward for their labours—with each project unique, there are few easy profits or economies of scale. Wealthy designers have usually arrived there via success in ‘business’ rather than designing alone. But we are pretty fortunate in other benefits that design activity can bring. Designers can often see, if not always touch, the results of their labour and although these might have limited life, their physical existence—and on occasion, their effect on others—produces fleeting glows of satisfaction. Good design also demands a healthy interest in the world that many professions and modern lifestyles discourage.
I recently re-read a book (remember those?) which I had all but forgotten since my late teens: Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is not really about Zen, Art or keeping your Motoguzzi on the road. It is an odd piece of 70s autobiographical post-hippy-lit combining road trip, father-son relationship, nervous breakdown and fairly heavy (man) philosophical enquiry. It takes its time to get going, makes your head hurt here & there and although it does eventually offer some (unsettling) drama, a reprint is unlikely to give Dan Brown sleepless nights. Written at least 15 years before the the first personal computer, some of the language of this book is of its time (the word “groovy” appears at least twice without irony) but the relevance of its central theme—our relationship with technology—has increased a hundredfold.