Design by Rationalised Constraint and the Nature of the Designer


Design limits choice, and that is why design matters.

Even the best design displaces the existence of other design solutions. Under one set of preconditions this doesn’t matter. Where there is no more optimal design solution, and that solution is freely chosen, then and only then, can we be certain that design has limited choice to the least possible degree.

Since the 1700s design and free choice has lifted billions from the poverty that had defined the human condition till then. Yet what gives also takes away. Suboptimal systemic design makes us fragile, limits prosperity, and reduces the nature of human being. As ignorance is no defense we have a moral imperative not to limit or risk future human agency. Cities are complexes of systemic designs that have been the venue for that unprecedented generation of value, and nonetheless they determine us. Where there is competitive choice this is generally of less concern. On the other hand, monopoly solutions frequently have long-term nontrivial consequences. Under those conditions design optimality really matters.

Both the nature of the particular designer and the designer’s choices determine the design outcome. While the world in which designers act is constrained, his or her imagination is not. Equally all design solutions operate in the unknowable future. Therefore we benefit from the creation of value that has been imagined into the world, while suffering loss at the hands of designers whose imagination overreaches the boundary of what can and cannot be designed.

All design comes into being within one of two social orders. It either emerges in a market where success is rewarded and failures are cleared, or it is the direct or indirect product of a design of the state. State and market designers have fundamentally different intentions and mechanisms of legitimacy. This profoundly determines the nature of design outcome, failure and consequences. The market designer’s legitimacy is a direct function of the consumer’s willingness to pay. That legitimacy only exists transaction by transaction. The essential good or service of yesterday is rapidly made redundant. Therefore the market designer can only have an intention to satisfy the demands of the consumer. To do otherwise would be to meet certain failure.

In complete contrast, any designer acting under the authority of the state is a party to the creation of an imagined future good. Despots and democratic governments both claim a legitimacy drawn from their right to determine the nature of society itself. Thus the designs of government directly intend to limit choice and any individual design can systematically fail over the very long term to meet its stated objective as it in fact forms part of a larger design.

Humanity increasingly lives within the complexes of systemic designs known as cities and therefore design really matters. Those cities exist in what Karl Popper described as a piecemeal society of state and market, and are subject to how each system of design limits choice. How we design, no matter who we are, is of greater consequence than ever. Design solutions are a product of what we know and what we do not know about a radically uncertain future. Those realities need to determine our design methodology. Design by Rationalised Constraint has been explicitly developed by Marque’d to resolve complex design solutions under those conditions.

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