History, aided by a simple system of ethics derived from the grammarof theology, will provide much suitable material for discussion: Was thebehavior of this statesman justified? What was the effect of such an enactment?What are the arguments for and against this or that form of government?We shall thus get an introduction to constitutional history--a subjectmeaningless to the young child, but of absorbing interest to those whoare prepared to argue and debate. Theology itself will furnish materialfor argument about conduct and morals; and should have its scope extendedby a simplified course of dogmatic theology (i.e., the rational structureof Christian thought), clarifying the relations between the dogma and theethics, and lending itself to that application of ethical principles inparticular instances which is properly called casuistry. Geography andthe Sciences will likewise provide material for Dialectic.
So many legends, so little time. Rick Grefe has asked me to speak briefly on the value of continuity in our profession. Of course one could take that charge to mean the short history of design, perhaps beginning with Peter Behrens, who is credited with invention of identity programs and coordinating graphic and industrial design activities. Or one might consider our history as beginning with the first cave paintings at the dawn of history.
I prefer the longer view that relates our activity to the fundamental needs of the human species. A species whose most distinctive characteristic is making things for a purpose, which turns out to be the actual description of what we do.
Any grandiosity or self-importance that this cosmic description of our activity creates in us will be quickly erased by the discovery that in a typical design class only 30% of the students will have any idea who Paul Rand is and will not be able to identify Eric Nitsche or Lester Beall, let alone Joseph Hoffman, Edward Penfield or Gustav Jensen. Incidentally, Jensen was a mentor to Paul Rand and, Cassandre aside, perhaps the designer he most admired, but I would not be at all surprised if most of us here tonight have never heard of him. – So much for understanding our own history.I have always believed that there is a psychological and ethical difference between those who make things and those who control things. If form making is intrinsic to human beings and has a social benefit, then we can think of the "good" in good design having more than a stylistic meaning. Linking beauty and purpose can create a sense of communal agreement that helps diminish the sense of disorder and incoherence that life creates.
The part of design that is involved in fashion and marketing has the least need to examine and understand our history. Examining what has happened over twenty years seems to provide enough information to meet professional requirements, but if our field aspires to be significant and worthy of respect, it must stand for something beyond salesmanship. Being a legend is an accomplishment that is hard won and sadly ephemeral, but being part of human kind’s desire to make useful and beautiful things links us to a glorious history.
Two weeks ago I developed a sudden, painful wrist condition. I went to a fancy hand doctor who told me I probably had a "gouty" incident. That’s not "Gaudi" the great Barcelonian designer and architect. It’s gout, as in those 18th century engravings of rich, fat men with inflamed big toes. My wrist is fine but while I was in the doctor’s office I noticed a document on his wall called "What A Surgeon Ought to Be" written in the 14th century. I’ve changed a word or two but it seems like good advice for our profession.
What the Designer Ought to Be: Let the designer be bold in all sure things, and fearful in dangerous things; let him avoid all faulty treatments and practices. He ought to be gracious to the client, considerate to his associates, cautious in his prognostications. Let him be modest, dignified, gentle, pitiful, and merciful; not covetous nor an extortionist of money; but rather let his reward be according to his work, to the means of the client, to the quality of the issue, and to his own dignity.
This trend is perpetuated in the medias reinforcement of male child behavior. In commercials it is often the boy child who is wrecking havoc, or destroying toys, or throwing fits. Often the boy is portrayed as simply a force of nature, not something with intelligence or meaning, but simply a power without focus. The adults males are then portrayed in roles of apathy, idiocy, and even ignorance. They like to watch sports, are subject only to the women who have to “look out for them” and are portrayed unfavorably. Even in the sexist commercials addressing women at least occasionally a woman is portrayed in a positive light, even if the gender role is from the 1950s.
The common trend is for women to be beautiful and to care for the house, and the men to be idiots who cannot measure up to the woman at home (or at work, depending on your choice). These are reinforced not just through media, but by peer pressure as well. We encourage girls to be what they want, to strive to be smart, to be the best, to be wonderful at EVERYTHING, and to top it off you have to be pretty too because no matter how successful you are it means nothing if you aren’t beautiful. Her male peers will reinforce it at an early age by picking on her appearance, and her female peers will follow suit. The adults will try to tell her she is beautiful instead of telling her life means more than looks, and they’ll reinforce that through the media they watch, and the actions they take day to day. When the parent focuses on clothes, and makeup, and appearance it reinforces that pressure. When we talk about how pretty some other adult looks, or who we find to be pretty in movies and TV shows, it reinforces the behaviors. When we criticize others based on appearance alone in the presence of the child, it AGAIN reinforces that behavior. These criticisms and ideas are societal placed, and reinforced day to day. But it’s not exclusive to girls.
First, I am totally there with you on the general slant of your topic, and bravo for the beautiful point by point story. I also strive to go with acknowledgement of who someone is (children and adults) rather than looks. And I get how hard that is sometimes! however, I wanted to remark on the above line: what about–A life of meaning, a life of ideas, presence, and being valued. Period. Not for anything, simply because we are? for our unique gifts we give to the world, no matter what they are–reading books is just one thing, valuable (I’m one of them, trust me–and this culture has really rewarded me for such things).
Being a woman with 3 daughters and 1 son I have earned the right to say the following:
Allow your daughters to be goddesses. Not only do they deserve it, THEY ARE! Simply teach them the difference between inner beauty & strength vs unrealistic social paradigms. And seriously, drop the equality/feminist crap. Equal rights is one thing, but we are built different then men and each sex is better at DIFFERENT things. 99.99999% of women do not want the majority of jobs, 24/7 focus, or physical characteristics of men; nor do men desire to be on compassionate call, on the feminine wave of emotion 24/7, or have to enjoy grooming as much as us. I love looking sexy and do fully shave for my husband (along with many other beautiful goddess tasks), and he loves taking care of me in SO many manly ways! Teach your girls to embrace their feminine cores, and your boys their masculine, and (respectfully & lovingly) the alternate if your beautiful child falls into that category as well.
Good looks and brains can be mixed up in a healthy combination. The trick is to know how to do it. Incidentally, how good looking I am depends on who is looking at me, including myself. I, myself, am very obssessive about losing weight. I don’t have eating disroders (thank god!) but I do count what I eat and go crazy over working out. I am…..average. Not slim and I think the day I accept it and understand that I am pretty as I am to everyone around me, I will have gone a long way in my mind.
I love hearing stories like yours. Not that any one should have to go through what you went through but that you learned from and overcame the negative behaviour that influenced you in your formative years. I think one of the main reasons I avoided body image issues is because not once in my entire childhood did I ever witness my mother say anything negative about herself, physically or otherwise. Seeing the people you look up to love themselves makes an enormous difference. Your daughter is very lucky.
I have two daughters (15 months and 3.5 years) and frequently fall into the set piece of “you look so pretty in that dress/hair combed/etc.” My parents did not raise me to be conscious of my looks and thanks to them, I managed to avoid body obsession until well into high school. Both girls have wonderful bright and outgoing personalities, love their books, love their soft friends and I know I need to make more of a point to acknowledge these things that make them special, not just that I think they look beautiful. Thank you for the timely reminder.
Every little girl is beautiful because yes you are looking at her physical outward appearance but inside of her she’s got a beautiful heart, a beautiful brain, a beautiful soul, etc. I understand that some people put way too much emphasis on the beauty and not enough on the brains but I don’t think it’s right to separate them. And I am a person who thinks that everyone is beautiful. Literally.
Although I agree with you that little girls should be praised more for their finer qualities, I also believe that they should be complemented when they are looking good.
I grew up to be an international model with a very firm head on my shoulder and no eating disorder whatsoever , because my parents taught me , that beauty is not just how you look but it is also about who you are. I was complimented about my looks all my life but was still an A grade student who did volunteer work in her spare time.
This is what I am trying to inculcate in my 5 year old daughter. I tell her everyday , she is beautiful, she can achieve everything that she sets her mind to do, when she works hard .She is praised for her helpfulness, when she shares, her empathy and her thoughtfulness. She is amongst top 5% high achieving students in her grade and still thinks she is a pretty princess.
As parents, aunts and uncle we need to make them confident individuals and like it or not , we are all judged from the beginning on how we look. I believe give them so much self confidence and support that when they go out to face the world , no matter what anyone says and does , they still believe in their own selves.
Our girls are bombarded daily by the media, especially magazine covers in checkout lanes, reinforcing the message that women who aren’t thin, tall, or beautiful don’t matter. Turning that around can be very difficult, especially in the middle school years when girls often become more body-conscious due to puberty changes. I would love to see more programs in the schools and youth groups in the late elementary years to address this…..here in the south many girls are often worried about being attractive by 3rd and 4th grade. Unfortunately a negative body-image theme often creates much larger self-esteem problems in the upper grades, and again when dating begins.