Vilem Flusser attempts to define the word “design” in his article “On the Word Design: An Etymological Essay.” He continuously returns to the idea that the word design fundamentally refers back to deception and trickery. Flusser asks the reader to question how design tricks us to miss what is natural and the truth of the material and instead see what we have constructed it to do.
He uses the example of a pen. In reality, a pen is merely a piece of plastic, a material that is no longer of much monetary value. However the design of this plastic into the pen, deceives us into seeing it as something greater. It gives us the ability to write and is therefore a tool, one most of us use every day. However, looking at it closely and looking past the design one would see that it is in fact, just a piece of plastic.
While I agree that yes, the design of the pen is what gives the reality of the object, a piece of plastic, its value, but would I take it so far as to say that the design of being a human deceives us against what we really are, which is a mammal? I do not feel that the words trickery, deception, and betray are appropriate. I think that design is more about perception and the act of designing something, for example a pen, is to take something like plastic, and not to deceive but to create an entirely new identity for the object. This identity is based off of or created from the material and that which relates to its function.
I would think that most people who use a pen every day do not think to themselves that they are being deceived to think the piece of plastic in their hand is a pen, but instead, have embraced a new identity for the object based off of its design and what that design allows it to do. A logo then, designed from shapes, line, and color, is not deceiving someone into thinking that it is more than those things, they are aware of that, but instead they have allowed that design to give the materials a new identity ultimately the face of the brand itself.
The same thing relates to Flussers argument about humans. The “design” of the idea of a human being as greater than the basic biological definition of ourselves as a mammal does not to me deceive us of what we are, but has instead created a new identity that allows for an understanding of what sets us apart from other mammals.