Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth is a tale of building a cathedral in Kingsbridge. What is more powerfully mysterious, sensual and intimate than following in the steps of people who grow up to love and hate each other, discover greed and pride, behave with ambition and exact revenge? The book was so successful that Follett is now at work on a sequel featuring the descendants of the characters in Pillars two centuries later. At the heart of 'World Without End' is the plague known as the Black Death, which killed almost half the population of Europe in the fourteenth century.
The backdrop of the novel is this project of building a cathedral. I selected a picture taken in Belgium; there are many fine cathedrals all over Europe, which is a region of the world I am more familiar with. The idea is that people's hard work and years of their lives were taken to build these places. I read somewhere that architecture is like frozen music. So to carry the metaphor a little further, we can view each of those people like a note or set of notes that contributed to the final opus.
Like a cathedral, many architectural spaces provide access to the experience of design. The story inside a cathedral is one of hushed awe. One of my favorites is the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence. It used to be a cathedral before one was built right in front of it. That was the place were poet Dante Alighieri was baptized. His Divine Comedy remains one the the pillars of the European literary traditions. An intricate design of history, opinions on the political landscape, philosophy and religious beliefs brought to you in the new colloquial language, Italian.
Taking a closer look at some contemporary conversations on the importance of design:
- The Masters of Design article in Fast Company issue 83 highlights why design matters, no matter what you do for living. And many other full issues, including the current one (October).
- BusinessWeek online Thomas Sullivan writes about two books that illustrate why good design is crucial to keeping technology working safely.
- New Zealand is a country at the edges of innovation, even when it comes to design. Better by Design is a company that aims to help local companies increase their exports and profits through the better use of design in their products and services.
- Read the paper by UK Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), the government's adviser on architecture, urban design and public space.
- Garr Reynolds posted a short article on Why design matters in his site. If you have time, visit his blog, Presentation Zen.
- The Computers Professionals for Social Responsibility sponsor biennial international forums for the exchange of ideas and experiences, investigating the incorporation of participatory design approaches in new technology areas.
- The AIGA is a professional organization committed to furthering excellence in design as a broadly-defined discipline, strategic tool for business and cultural force.
- Tom Peters dedicates a whole section of his Re-Imagine! to design. The book itself is a delicious experience.
- This Friday, October 6, the Thought Cooperative opens at 222galleryphiladelphia.
- Steve Denning teaches the art of storytelling through the design of conversation with organizations and leaders.
I've read that visual communication design is like a frozen conversation. Design can be of product, service, work, team, community, conversation, experience, and life. Design is a noun and a verb; it’s a way of thinking about a problem, of presenting reality, of visualizing what we’re dealing with. It’s time to reinvent business and the way we organize work.