Still rocking from the recent scandals of sadism in critiques, (commonly referred to as "crits.") The Design School, a posh institution which had, prior to those scandals, one of the best reputations in the high-stakes world of design education, has been hit with another scandal, one which has extremist social groups calling for legislation which would ban design educators from practising anywhere in the country, and free-speech advocates circling the wagons for court battles challenging the rights of designers to abuse their users.
The scandal was touched off when a recent graduate of The Design School brokered a deal with Police informants, who, posing as clients who had caught him obfuscating his design. In three hours of confession, the graduate, whose name has been withheld to facilitate his entry into the witness protection programme, described 4 and 5 hour lectures during which students of design were urged to develop designs whose purpose was to incite envy, desire and lust, to confuse and perplex, and generally, to manipulate the emotions of the user. When asked why he agreed to the practice, the graduate reportedly wept, explaining that they'd been told that satisfaction, though universally regarded as the true aim of art, was, paradoxically, unsatisfying, that the user wanted to be challenged, to experience something more than the mere satisfaction of want. The shocking confession went on to describe, in lurid detail, this perverse understanding of the psychology of the user, a veritable [antibible (lookup)], complex and terrifyingly complete, perverting all aspects of our understanding of design, and drawing conclusions no less shocking than the sacrifice of functionality on the altar of a misguided experientiality.
Architect H. McFink, director of The Design School, refused all comment, but issued a press release through a spokesperson which stated that "Save in the most extreme cases, such as the creation of television adds, there is no room in The Design School for those who would preach the doctrine of dissatisfaction, and even within that vilified field, we guide our students to the right path, the satisfaction of carnal desires which is universally acknowledged to redeem the art." Social groups, however, are not convinced, arguing that the moral integrity of the school has been compromised. They believe that the designers of TDS have crossed over from being champions of the consumer society to being parasites and puppeteers, no longer concerned with the needs of the consumer, engrossed in their perverse games of control and corruption.
For now, TDS's offices remain open, but police have stopped all classes, and confined students and faculty to their studios. Social workers are attempting to determine how many of the students have been brainwashed, and whether treatment is possible. The embattled school, bereft of its reputation as an institution of open and above-board higher learning is almost certain to close, and its alumni will work under a cloud of suspicion for the rest of their careers. But TDS is only one design institution, what of the hundreds of other centres? Moderates are calling for government investigations of all design schools, extremists are calling for the elimination of design schools altogether in favour of engineering training based on user analysis and satisfaction.
Occupied with the problem in the schools, no-one has yet turned their attention to the disturbing phenomena of the growing advertising sector.
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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1997