triad of

A designer aspires to fulfill the needs, wants and desires of the end users of the design. It is this capacity to aspire40, cast in terms such as needs, wants and desires, that perhaps requires the most nuanced understanding. One person’s need may become another person's want or desire. For example, access to a toilet or potable tap water may emerge as any of these aspirations depending on the social, cultural and, particularly, the economic capital one possesses.

To design is to be able to understand the nuances of these aspirations and differences in degree, for too much attention is paid to needs. This is understandable though, given the urgent, episodic and sometimes dire nature of needs. However, the student needs to be careful that the project does not degenerate into need finding or finding problems where they do not exist. Under the guise of solutions, designs can become impositions on others. Beyond the design of artefacts or services to solve problems, to design is to be able to give voice41 to people, often the poor, deprived and marginalized. To design is to be able to construct futures that restore dignity and nurture people’s aspirations. The immediacy of needs, wants and desires gives way to long-term growth42 rooted in human aspirations.

  1. read Arjun Appadurai in The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the Terms of Recognition (2004).
  2. read Albert O. Hirschman in Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organisations and States (1970).
  3. read Kentaro Tayoma in Design, Needs, and Aspirations in International Development (2017).