Example #86 Design and Humility

What if design were about humility and thinking of others?

Adriana taught design at her local college. She wanted the students to design an outfit for a couple to wear to a church wedding as guests.

"I have become increasingly unhappy about the clothes worn for weddings. I like clothes to be celebratory, but some weddings are becoming all about the clothes. I feel it’s perceived as a context for designers to showcase their work, and the religious context gets forgotten. I started the session by showing lots of images of clothes people wear to weddings. I asked students to research images of wedding clothes worn by guests and write an analysis of them. We discussed the images using the following prompts:
  • What are your first impressions?
  • What do you think governed the choices?
  • What are people saying through their clothes?
  • What do the choices suggest the event is about?
"We then looked at the wedding service and discussed what was important about it. I made available copies of a Christian wedding service and vows. We devised some criteria for choice of design that would be appropriate in the light of those:
  • The designer has a responsibility to be appropriate to the occasion and serve the guest and the bride and groom. It is not for showcasing the designer's flair.
  • It’s a religious ceremony, so clothes should have an element of modesty.
  • The guests are there to support the bride and groom and not to steal the limelight or draw attention to themselves.
  • It’s a celebration so clothes should be celebratory.
  • The designer should think about how the clothes will look in photographs, they should not leave people with regrets.
"Many students felt the designer had a double brief; the same clothes were used for a religious ceremony and a party in the evening. The student designs reflected that, often using short jackets, wraps and other devices for the women to create two different looks from the same outfit. On the whole students went for simpler and more elegant designs with very good fabrics rather than showy outfits. I adjusted my evaluations to include the criteria we had devised."

What’s going on here?

Adriana saw design as a way of encouraging students to think of others and serve and to reflect on the meaning and purpose of a wedding.

She engaged students in a design activity that made them think about connections to a faith context and actively devise criteria in a way that focused on serving.

Adriana reshaped her practice by changing the context for the activity (the new brief), adjusting her assessment to match, and using images and questions to change the focus and look at the purpose to which skills were put.

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

Serving is an expression of love. Service should distinguish the Christian way of life; at work, in the home and in relationships. The possession of gifts and talents bring with them responsibility; they are for serving others, and that includes design. Love accepts limits in terms of the needs of others. Serving involves a lack of selfishness, for it means taking the spotlight off ourselves in order to pay attention to the needs of others.

What difference does it make?

This way of approaching design underscores the responsibility of designers, rather than seeing creativity as something on which no limits are imposed. Love imposes limits. With any gift comes a responsibility to use it with wisdom. This approach also changes the context in which the designer works to a religious one, even if the designer does not share that faith.

Where could we go from here?

These concepts of serving, responsibility, and the limits imposed by love can be applied to other creative projects and other parts of the design curriculum.

Digging deeper

Adriana saw design as service. The concept of service is an important one for Christians, for Jesus took the word ‘servant’ and gave it a new and radical meaning. He took a word that described a lesser person under the authority of others and redefined it in terms of leadership and greatness. As the ‘servant King’ he washed his disciples' feet and expected his followers to be willing to act similarly (John 13:14-15). Jesus made it clear that in the kingdom of God those who are greatest are those who serve God and others.
… the duty is now emphasized of serving God in the world, in every position in life. Abraham Kuyper
In 1 Corinthians love is described as ‘not self-seeking’. Paul also talks about pleasing others rather than ourselves in order to build up other people (Romans 15:2). This does not mean self is effaced or personal needs are never met. Jesus talked of loving others as we love ourselves. We can uphold the dignity of people and their entitlement to be treated as God’s children, and that includes us.
What the earliest Christians were struck by, and what they returned to again and again, was that in Jesus they had seen (and the stories testified of this to those who had not seen) a way of being human which nobody had ever imagined before. This was a way of generosity and forgiveness, a way of self-emptying and a determination to put everyone else’s needs first …
From Virtue Reborn by Tom Wright
Adriana stressed responsibility in design rather than just following a trend or displaying flair. Gifts bring with them responsibility to use them wisely. In the Bible, Samson was gifted with enormous strength, but he wasted that gift rather than using it wisely. Possession of a gift is not enough.

Explore similar examples:

What if design and technology were about serving communities?
What if design and technology brought delight to others?
What if drama were about others and not self?
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1It was before Passover, and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and to return to the Father. He had always loved his followers in this world, and he loved them to the very end. 2Even before the evening meal started, the devil had made Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, decide to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that he had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given him complete power. 4So during the meal Jesus got up, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples' feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing. 6But when he came to Simon Peter, that disciple asked, Lord, are you going to wash my feet? 7Jesus answered, You don't really know what I am doing, but later you will understand. 8You will never wash my feet! Peter replied. If I don't wash you, Jesus told him, you don't really belong to me. 9Peter said, Lord, don't wash just my feet. Wash my hands and my head. 10Jesus answered, People who have bathed and are clean all over need to wash just their feet. And you, my disciples, are clean, except for one of you. 11Jesus knew who would betray him. That is why he said, except for one of you. 12After Jesus had washed his disciples' feet and had put his outer garment back on, he sat down again. Then he said: Do you understand what I have done? 13You call me your teacher and Lord, and you should, because that is who I am. 14And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. 15I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you. 16I tell you for certain that servants are not greater than their master, and messengers are not greater than the one who sent them. 17You know these things, and God will bless you, if you do them. 18I am not talking about all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. But what the Scriptures say must come true. And they say, The man who ate with me has turned against me! 19I am telling you this before it all happens. Then when it does happen, you will believe who I am. 20I tell you for certain that anyone who welcomes my messengers also welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Jesus tells what will happen to him (Matthew 26.20-25; Mark 14.17-21; Luke 22.21-23) 21After Jesus had said these things, he was deeply troubled and told his disciples, I tell you for certain that one of you will betray me. 22They were confused about what he meant. And they just stared at each other. 23Jesus' favourite disciple was sitting next to him at the meal, 24and Simon motioned for that disciple to find out which one Jesus meant. 25So the disciple leaned towards Jesus and asked, Lord, which one of us are you talking about? 26Jesus answered, I will dip this piece of bread in the sauce and give it to the one I was talking about. Then Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27At once Satan took control of Judas. Jesus said, Judas, go quickly and do what you have to do. 28No one at the meal understood what Jesus meant. 29But because Judas was in charge of the money, some of them thought that Jesus had told him to buy something they needed for the festival. Others thought that Jesus had told him to give some money to the poor. 30Judas took the piece of bread and went out. It was already night. The new command 31After Judas had gone, Jesus said: Now the Son of Man will be given glory, and he will bring glory to God. 32Then, after God is given glory because of him, God will bring glory to him, and God will do it very soon. 33My children, I will be with you for a little while longer. Then you will look for me, but you won't find me. I tell you just as I told the people, You cannot go where I am going. 34But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. 35If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples. Peter's promise (Matthew 26.31-35; Mark 14.27-31; Luke 22.31-34) 36Simon Peter asked, Lord, where are you going? Jesus answered, You can't go with me now, but later on you will. 37Peter asked, Lord, why can't I go with you now? I would die for you! 38Would you really die for me? Jesus asked. I tell you for certain that before a cock crows, you will say three times that you don't even know me. Jesus is the way to the Father
1If our faith is strong, we should be patient with the Lord's followers whose faith is weak. We should try to please them instead of ourselves. 2We should think of their good and try to help them by doing what pleases them. 3Even Christ did not try to please himself. But as the Scriptures say, The people who insulted you also insulted me. 4And the Scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by giving us hope. 5God is the one who makes us patient and cheerful. I pray that he will help you live at peace with each other, as you follow Christ. 6Then all of you together will praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The good news is for Jews and Gentiles 7Honour God by accepting each other, as Christ has accepted you. 8I tell you that Christ came as a servant of the Jews to show that God has kept the promises he made to their famous ancestors. Christ also came, 9so that the Gentiles would praise God for being kind to them. It is just as the Scriptures say, I will tell the nations about you, and I will sing praises to your name. 10The Scriptures also say to the Gentiles, Come and celebrate with God's people. 11Again the Scriptures say, Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles. All you nations, come and worship him. 12Isaiah says, Someone from David's family will come to power. He will rule the nations, and they will put their hope in him. 13I pray that God, who gives hope, will bless you with complete happiness and peace because of your faith. And may the power of the Holy Spirit fill you with hope. Paul's work as a missionary 14My friends, I am sure that you are very good and that you have all the knowledge you need to teach each other. 15But I have spoken to you plainly and have tried to remind you of some things. God was so kind to me! 16He chose me to be a servant of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles and to do the work of a priest in the service of his good news. God did this so that the Holy Spirit could make the Gentiles into a holy offering, pleasing to him. 17Because of Christ Jesus, I can take pride in my service for God. 18In fact, all I will talk about is how Christ let me speak and work, so that the Gentiles would obey him. 19Indeed, I will tell how Christ performed miracles and wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have preached the good news about him all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum. 20But I have always tried to preach where people have never heard about Christ. I am like a builder who doesn't build on anyone else's foundation. 21It is just as the Scriptures say, All who haven't been told about him will see him, and those who haven't heard about him will understand. Paul's plan to visit Rome 22My work has always kept me from coming to see you. 23Now there is nothing left for me to do in this part of the world, and for years I have wanted to visit you. 24So I plan to stop off on my way to Spain. Then after a short, but refreshing, stay with you, I hope you will quickly send me on. 25I am now on my way to Jerusalem to deliver the money that the Lord's followers in Macedonia and Achaia collected for God's needy people. 27This is something they really wanted to do. But sharing their money with the Jews was also like paying back a debt, because the Jews had already shared their spiritual blessings with the Gentiles. 28After I have safely delivered this money, I will visit you and then go on to Spain. 29And when I do arrive in Rome, I know it will be with the full blessings of Christ. 30My friends, by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love that comes from the Holy Spirit, I beg you to pray sincerely with me and for me. 31Pray that God will protect me from the unbelievers in Judea, and that his people in Jerusalem will be pleased with what I am doing. 32Ask God to let me come to you and have a pleasant and refreshing visit. 33I pray that God, who gives peace, will be with all of you. Amen. Personal greetings