John Christopher Jones
DESIGNING AS PEOPLE
(c) john chris jones, 25 September 2001
S T A T E M E N T :
designing as people
I believe that the eventual future of design, design research, and of all other specialised professions, is to disappear - to be replaced by the diffusion of these activities from design offices, universities, or other centres of specialised work, to all of us as users, as citizens, as people, enabled by computernets to practice and to learn most of the creative skills of our former professional selves in the continuous redesigning-while-using-and-living of the changing forms of our (consciously or spontaneously) co-designed culture. What a mouthful - and what a change!(1)
A precedent for this is the open source movement for the shared development of software by people, all of whom are both users and makers of it (2).
Instead of myself presuming to imagine and to say how this might work out I am taking advantage of this new form of participatory conference book to invite those who take part to send me not criticisms but stories or imaginary diaries (or such) of how you think the future of designing may be realised. I will incorporate each reply as the eventual substance of this paper.
If you wish to respond please send me up to about 150 words of your idea of how you might one day be living and designing as a user or active person either in what I call creative democracy (3) or else in your own vision of the future.
(see below the reply from Rosan Chow)
As an example of what I mean, here are my own 150 words - in the form of a diary:
digital diary: 26 September 2894 (4)
It's already evening and I feel I've achieved nothing. This morning I stayed in bed listening to phoneins and then I ate some soup left over from yesterday. This afternoon I communicated with a friend by touchphone for half an hour and slept for two. Surfed the web and found several people I'd lost contact with. I found an ancient website at which I could read the thoughts of design researchers of nine hundred years ago. Are we living a life foreseen then? The website showed a hypertext conference in which were imaginary diary entries describing the future of design. There is no designing to be seen here now - except that each day we are all obliged to do our creative public work. Mine is to invite people to describe their days for an interactive text on creative democracy. This is part of my invitation. Easy.
(1) The theory and imagining of this change appears at
(2) The open source movement is enthusiastically and informatively described by John Naughton in his book A brief history of the future: the origins of the internet, Phoenix Paperback/Orion Books, London 2000.
There is a net version at
(3) Creative democracy is alluded to or imagined on pages 18,31,307,407,410,498,514 and 553 of my book the internet and everyone, ellipsis, London 2000. There is a shorter electric version of the book at
(4) This and other digital dairy entries appear at
B I O G R A P H Y:
some memories of my early life
...I much enjoyed that last year ... at Alexander Road Elementary School, Aberystwyth ... which was taught by Mr. Davies, the head master, who must have been an exceptional teacher. I remember him demonstrating atmospheric pressure by cooling a sealed can full of steam until it condensed into water - at which the can collapsed under the atmospheric pressure (of 'fifteen pounds per square inch'). And I remember him tolerating my sometimes cheeky answers to his questions...
...On my way home from school I would call on Nain, my grandmother, and she would send me with a penny-ha'penny to buy a cream horn to eat with her before Taid, my grandfather, returned from his carpentry and building business. To a small boy he was a fearful presence, though kindly enough. But Nain was wonderful...
...Of those happy years of my pre-war childhood I remember most what I'd now call my construction projects. With the help of my friend John Watkin, and one or two others, and with scrap materials, I made a shed (in which we used to smoke cigarettes made of dried dock petals rolled in newspaper), a canoe of sorts (which sank at its first trial in the sea) and an improvised cinema (or shadow theatre) in the attic (by passing toy animals and toy soldiers before an electric light in a shoe box with a magnifying glass to make a beam of light). Also we made gun powder (was it with potassium nitrate and sulphur and carbon from the chemist's?) but we only caused tiny explosions. And we used to carve wooden models of the boats on the sea front. One was called 'Belle Isle'. On another excursion boat, 'The Pride of the Midlands', we could get a free ride on the last sailing of the day - 'the harbour trip'.
The father of one of my friends, Desmond Davies, used to go out in the lifeboat - and we were let out of school to help drag it from the lifeboat house to the sea if the gun calling the crew went off during school time...
...Perhaps the best thing my father did for me was to give me two construction books.
One, the name of which I forget, showed you how to make electrical devices (a compass, a battery, an electric motor, a telegraph, etc.) with household materials like corks, needles, tinfoil, copper wire and a bar magnet.
The other, 'Flight without Formulae' by A C Kermode (a later edition of which is still in print) teaches how an aeroplane flies by getting you to make models with folded paper.
From these I learnt something I greatly value and still delight in - the way that accurate knowledge of the invisible forces of aerodynamics and electricity enable people to achieve apparent magic. Like the electric train or the aeroplane - without visible means of propulsion, or of support. Perception of the invisible is still my way of doing things, I think. The real virtue of engineering - and now of all kinds of software and of virtual reality...
Ardwyn Grammar School, Aberystwyth (where my father taught physics) ... My best memory of Ardwyn is of the school debates - I found that one can speak audaciously in public, even about those in authority, without retribution. A public presence is beyond the power of individuals, and even of officials, so it seemed to me then - and I liked it...
...During those war-time years my sister Jennifer and I held children's concerts in the attic (to collect money for the Red Cross) and I dug an air-raid shelter in the garden (though there were no air raids on Aberystwyth)...
There are more of these memories at
There is a digitised photograph by Jorge Glusberg (please credit the photograph to him), and a more complete biography by C. Thomas Mitchell, at
Want less and share more.
Spend time with children.
Visit our aging parents.
Talk to ourselves.
Remember our childhood.
Observe the birds.
Stare at the sky.
Get really drunk.
Have some chocolate.
Say thank you and mean it.
Dress to kill.
Say good morning to the janitors.
Have sex with someone you love.
Watch the Simpsons.
Write a letter, a real one.
Cry if you may.
Don't forget to remember.
Look at yourself in the mirror.
Dance until you drop.
Listen to ourselves.
Remember friends' birthdays.