“Magic is a bridge that allows us to cross from the visible world to the invisible world”. I heard Paulo Coelho make this remarkable declaration and it stopped me. I have often said that design is magic and Coelho announced the formula. For design is how we make the invisible world of our minds visible and tangible.
All our ideas we translate into the world of forms can be experienced – by ourselves and others. This is as true when we design the house we live in or the devices that millions of people carry in their pockets. It is true when we configure an organizational chart to make teams more innovative or when we devise software that keeps track of how much exercise a health conscious nation is getting.
Coelho is the Brazilian author of bestselling novel “The Alchemist” that has sold over 200 million copies in 80 languages. He speaks with latin lyricism and a gentle lilt in his voice that is magnetic. “Emotions are something that we can’t see, we can’t touch, we can’t organize, but at the same time, emotions change the world. And the most important one being love.”
When we embody our ideas by design, we also give shape to our emotions. The magic of design is that it allows us to invest the objective world with all of our aspiration, our playfulness, our care and of course, our love. “A manifestation of love cannot be understood. It can be felt” Coelho continues. So every object, artifact, environment, embodies whatever care and attention were invested in it’s creation. If no care is taken, that will show up too. Whatever is in the designers’ hearts will be felt by the thousand, millions or billions of people who, in time, experience what they have made visible.
Design is how we give form to our intentions. Our ideas. Our passions and our demons.
Here we come to a caution for the creator in each of us. If our work is the embodiment of our best intentions, so is it of our worst. Design can be a bridge to malice just as it can be to care; to obsession as it is to joy. Design embodies contempt as easily as it does love.
It is the work of the designer, as the magician, to be aware of the emotions that inspire our work. It is up to us to choose whether to create a world of dark magic, or light.