Tag: on making

The saddest designer

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When I made a living out of abstraction, I didn’t know that with it would come a universally-mandated detachment from the self and what is loved. To put it more simply: everything I have known about making, I knew mostly from birth. Now I’m being taught that there are these parts of me that must be freed. All I want is to live my truth.

Creation is the act or process of bringing something into existence. The Google Card (at least when I look it up) suggests that the closest synonym to be design; the act of conception after the coming of the self is the world’s natural order. After I am made, all I must do is make.
All these other things are add-ons, nice-to-haves, far from the key results. When I was growing up and first absorbing the truths of this world (and then later, marking what was ‘truth’ and what was up for debate––the complexity of observation and being), there was nothing more innate to me than production.

Mankind lives, so mankind must create tools. The dawn of this some 2.6 million years ago has dictated the course of history––rather, the course of human history. Rock sparks against rock, one strike against another directed to flint instead of the other, crushes edges of its own device and butchers animal bone. (Another thing is that we too, are animal, but draw this distinction out of convenience, self-preservation, man’s sense of superiority.) Bone fosters bone. Amidst all of its unlikelihood (australopithecine-sized brains), we gut skin and hide off, fastened our teeth against the strain of flesh, detached muscle and traced the grain, split bone open to drink marrow.

Millennia later, I stood against the promise of living in a world of desire and war because the act of toolsmaking would teach me endurance. From struggle and strife, man would create the means to modify the environment, everything––in all of its complexity, abandonment of equilibrium––so that another would never have to fall apart again. Human ambition is at its most meaningful when it’s taken to be collaborative; if our determination extends so far unto selflessness, we consider the limits of humanity than any one man. One man cuts a blade, spears a fish. One man builds upon the acts of a million man before him, whether he knows it or not. Suddenly, this collectivism makes the world seem far less alone than it normally does.

From conflict and hatred, man reconsiders meaning. Pain affords itself as a utility. I drive a better self, and subsequently, a better world.

For the world to be interesting, you have to be manipulating it all the time.

Brian Eno

Toolsmaking becomes the engine of the world. It comes in all forms: the droll of mass production and its own implications towards the world’s systems, a father reeling from the underside of a trunk and imparting unto his son not only the brilliance of the act but the trust of the world ahead, the light of my screen and windows against the lull of a neighborhood before me.

I’m not here to distinguish between which pixel is realer than the other, or the interest in the metareality and the nature of imparting our interactions into the cyberspace. The role of a technologist ultimately, is the act of toolsmaking. Design is almost the same as creation. Design (no matter how feeble the human brain is later described to be as) comes making, even if we drop the tool and never pick it up again. My consciousness, after all, holds both the conditions and memories and the desire to change––timelines melding, potentiality seen in both the past, present, and future. The process of ‘manifesting’ falls somewhere here: creation too, is the act of manifestation, the changing of ourselves so it comes into the world of appearance. After all, man has directed the world for centuries uncountable against our own fingers (even if to a path of self-destruction), so too can we follow it into the grave.

All this to say that I am tired, alternatively, of the premise that creation means productivity––especially in the laborious sense. Here, the designer is the saddest kind for playing with pixels and photographs on the weekend; for immersing themselves and recognizing the ever-shifting world before them. Creation has become mangled with labor in a world that demands man to monetize all of their hobbies and pursuits. In return, it seems empty, almost sad, really––to be the designer spending weekends again on the screen.
I’ve spent a whole summer thinking about what I do for “fun”, and how the increased consciousness of the workplace makes it all the more damning: e.g. I introduce myself with they/them pronouns that everyone immediately forgets, and then hobbies where I must avoid saying I like doing what I do here for fun otherwise people who talk about maintaining succulents have this weird sense of scorn for you.

To tell you what I like to do in the weekends, I like to do the sad thing. (To be more precise, nowadays, it’s more about wanting to do the “sad” thing and hoping no one judges me for it.) I draw the blinds, I listen to the same indie music, and I sit in front of the world and make for it.
The ‘good’ people tell you to detach your life from your workspace, but this summer, I think I’ve just realized how much I adore what I have the luxury of working on everyday. A mangled sense of dictating what one finds ‘valid’, I am the saddest kind of designer who only knows design: its form, its unlearning, all the things it could be. I choose it for all its potency.

Perhaps this seems like someone who lives and breathes design is asking for pity. Less so that. It’s that design, once a malleable act imbued with tenderness, has lost its connection with self-expression & desire and has become one of the many things we cast off for the weekend. It was my weekend, it was my everyday, it was my entire world. There is no shortage of the enormity of gratitude I bear for how my career is not ‘intensive’ or mechanically laborious like the many others: I sit at a computer, and sometimes there I have the audacity to think I can change the world. Many times, I think I have––depending on your scope of what the world is. Sixteen putting together the terrible graphics that would turn into the face for one of Asia’s largest pride festivals, eighteen touching over a million Filipinos as the elections encroached, twenty…

Twenty-one and uncertain again about the things I love and am good at. I should have gotten over this a decade ago. There’s no use for precarity here: I was born into something and must fall into it again.

I want to live my life in pursuit of something. I am so lucky that this pursuit can happen in the day, in the night, and is a truth that I can (mostly) say with freedom and no fear of respite. I do what my ancestors have done when it was necessary to live, and now I reinvent what the act of invention itself means. Design is moving, design is synonymous with creation, design is the act of telling my story, design is the process entrusted onto me after years of being, design is maintenance, design is fluid and collaborative, design is loving to the point of invention, design is about people, for people.

There are stories I only have so much time to tell. With the gift of this craft, I have so much of the world to veer towards, a relative history of my own being and the things I solve for me that others may find use in carrying, and sometimes even the sadistic idea that my death will then impart some revelations to the others. Design is my form of resilience, a form of self-preservation, and a form of revolt ingrained. Design is ontological, divine, mine. My very familiarity with how the systems among it can cede to numbers, shelter false narratives, and rehabilitate potentialities lost to time tells me that the uncertainty of circumstance––and the certainty of how I myself, in all of human singularity and with the tools of my forefathers before me, can create something tangible––positions us far from cessation.

The necessity of invention means that to make for people, the self, to maintain the world around, to bestow unto the next the artifacts we have made to sustain ourselves in a never-ending fight for survival has meant something to ourselves and the universe for a long time. It is marvelous. It is my whole self, long before I have known.

So in the weekend, I make. I make not because it’s the only thing I have ever known, but because it’s the most certain way forward.