On the Design of Politics

So often the intellectual disciplines of politics and design are categorized separately, into the realist and the whimsical, assuming policy design and structuring institutions are the only semi-creative outlets for a political scientist. But even in its most artistic meaning, what is the realm of politics without design? Do states not define themselves with visual images, symbolic of the ideals for which they stand?

Remember the successful propaganda of communist regimes in the USSR and Mao’s China. The very style of the art, typeface and color, is now associated with revolutionary struggle.

Paola Antonelli, for Seed Magazine wrote that “Whether we are aware of it or not, design is in everything around us. Every building, park, city, organization and social project is designed. For those who know how to use it, design can be a critical instrument for governance regimes to illustrate power through elegant, imposing monuments and the rebuilding of cities under new ideologies. Design holds the key to persuasion. Totalitarian regimes rely on design to achieve their objectives through sleek propaganda which is not subject to public accountability. A pluralistic Democracy on the other hand who’s mission isn’t to coerce often doesn’t employ a consistent philosophy on design.”


However, as she continues to say, even liberal democratic states are giving more attention to the design of their symbols and institutions (see for example The Hague Design and Government, based in the Netherlands). European Union currency, for example, was a modern adventure in the power of symbols and their implication. Unable to choose historical figures to stand for a united Europe, they settled finally with ambiguous bridges and buildings.


Design!publiC III asks about the changing relationship between the public and the polity. Can the designs of the public inform states in flux to the needs of the people? What can graffiti from the revolutions of the Arab Spring say about the desires of the people and the redesign of their states?

(source: Foreign Policy Magazine)

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