We can do this.

Ideas  /  Dave Mason  /  08.31.17

It’s been more than ten years since we thought maybe we could help inspire the kind of thinking that makes a difference. And what an incredibly optimism-inducing experience it has been.

From crickets to "yes".

In early 2007, when I told the very first potential presenter for the very first Cusp Conference that it was going to be a conference “about the design of everything” (a phrase made up on the spot because I didn’t know how to describe what we were trying to do), there were crickets on the other end of the phone.

That first potential presenter was a young man named Bryan Anderson, who’d lost both legs and one arm in an IED explosion in Iraq. His response, once the crickets cleared, was “But I’m not a designer.” When I mentioned an article in which he’d been quoted as saying — as his buddies pulled him from a shattered, burning Humvee — ”I’m really going to have to re-think my life now,” and told him that beyond that being an absolutely incredible thing to even think during such a moment, those were ‘design’ words, he totally got it. Yes, he’d actually said that, and yes, he would definitely come to our conference and talk about how he'd redesigned his life. And he did!

Design = optimism.

It’s arguable that today, ‘design’ has firmly entered the public’s consciousness. It’s even taught in business schools. But shouldn’t design be taught and encouraged at every stage of a child’s education? Because design is really a basic human trait. Virtually everything we see and experience that isn’t naturally occurring has been designed, or is the unintended result of design. It’s not always used for good, but design is how we as a species move forward.

As the world faces challenges related to politics, climate, conflict, racism, food, water, income inequality, criminal justice, healthcare, education, energy, and on and on, we’re optimistic that more and more people are beginning to understand that they may just have the power to re-imagine and contribute to reshaping the world. Because voting is design. Purchasing or not purchasing something is design. Choosing to read a book versus watching a reality TV show is design.

OK, maybe my partners and I are being a little overly optimistic in our belief that people are figuring this all out. But hey, we’re designers, so we’re optimistic by nature. Because the very notion of design — that with the right actions in the right quantity, people really can move something/anything from its existing state to a desired state — demands optimism.

Yes, we can do this.

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