Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Cooltrain Stops Here: Combating Design-Driven Social Stratification

Prof Michael Robert Gibson.

The more the majority of contemporary humans struggle to obtain, utilize, navigate and glean usable information from the material artifacts that have been designed for their consumption by an incredibly elite, finite minority of design professionals, the less capable this majority has become at meeting the daily coping and surviving challenges imposed on them by the lifestyles to which they so relentlessly aspire. Instead of focusing on framing and pursuing design initiatives that could ostensibly support the reinforcement of specific intellectual, ethical, cognitive, political, symbolic, or religious issues that reinforce and positively contextualize socio-cultural bonds, most designers regularly engage in creating things that succeed in achieving the exact opposite of this laudable objective. Instead of heeding Victor Papanek’s compassionate entreat to “design to improve human capability… to adapt elemental functionality to human needs,” we now routinely design, produce and distribute entire synthetic systems that force people to adapt to their overtly artificial, extremely perfunctory mechanics. Too much of our creative output achieves little more than contributing to the classification of specific social groups as “haves” and others as “have-nots.” This paper will enlighten readers about several strategies that designers from a broad array of disciplines can employ to begin to reverse the global affects and effects of this potentially disastrous paradigm shift.


Prof Michael Robert Gibson  (United States)
Assoc Prof in Communication Design
Design Division
The University of North Texas

Michael Gibson has been teaching visual communication design at the university level for ten years, first at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and most recently at the University of North Texas. He has published and lectured widely on the types of roles design education and design thinking should play in instigating and nurturing positive social change within given communities.

  • Cultural Consequences of Design Decision-Making
  • Improving Human Capability
  • User-Centered Design Research
  • Designer Culpability and Consumer Responsibility
Person as Subject
  • Tibor Kalman Victor Papanek Donald Norman Ezio Manzini Loralee Alben

(Virtual Presentation, English)