Lately, we hear a call for more ethics in design. Ethics is a philosophical notion that allows us to rationally question a highly irrational dimension of our lives: the morality of what we do. As a philosophical discipline, ethics it doesn’t solve problems, it makes us think about them without too quickly falling for what we feel. Ethics won’t solve problems it will clarify them and offer unexpected paths forward. Ethics can give us some hints when it comes to philosophical questions. Ethics will make us see freedom of will, freedom of action or freedom of speech in a different, brighter light. Philosophy is unsettling. It makes you realize how little you understand of what you think you know. Yes, you are human and you enjoy freedom, but few people have something enlightening to say about it. Philosophers like Plato, Kant and Jaspers have thought more and deeper about freedom than you and me. But reading Kant is like reading Einstein's Relativity theory. It may be full of light, but for the untrained it stays dark.
Surprisingly, aesthetics might have more answers to that than it seems. In everyday language aesthetics is a treated as superficial meaningless quality of pleasing objects. Economically, aesthetics are a characteristic of luxury. Aesthetic objects communicate: "I am expensive!" But when you focus on philosophical depths of what we call beautiful, it may at times reveal that is is related to what is good. Somehow, what is truly good is also beautiful and what is truly beautiful is good. It's not a direct relationship, it's a deeper connection, or a relationship higher up, outside the platonic cave, in the stark light of the blinding sun. It may very well be that aesthetics and not the magic belief in artificial intelligence will turn out to be the key to a more humane design.
Oliver Reichenstein is the founder and director of Information Architects, the Tokyo, Zurich, and Berlin-based design agency. iA's usual trade is website design and consultancy along with concept work for media companies like Condé Nast, Red Bull,
The Guardian, Asics, Die Zeit, and Wikipedia.
The company has also developed the iA Writer, a pioneering minimalist text editor. With their work on the long-overdue reinvention of the word processor, their research in responsive web typography and their lucid and ultra-clear user experience
design work for major newspapers iA and Oliver are shaping nothing less than the future of how we read and write.