Constantin and Laurene Leon Boym: Manifesto #16

Designer as Curious George

Reading to our small son Bobby, we met our unlikely role model. Curious George, a cute little monkey who travelled from the jungle to live in the exciting modern world, is driven by curiosity to play and experiment with everything that surrounds him. He finds new uses for familiar things, invents different ways for our daily routines, tests the limits of materials and objects. Many of his experiments don’t work, and he routinely gets in trouble, but occasionally he reaps praise or a medal.

This sounds a lot like the designer’s life. After all, the role of the designer today is to be on the continual lookout, to detect all the intangible vibes of emerging needs, trends, and desires, to play with them, and eventually to re-interpret them as products for public use.

In Curious George we see a new paradigm of contemporary cultural hero, one without a militant stance, one who is not really against anyone, but who has an open mind, curiosity, and interest in the world at large. But he is not merely an observer. In his easy-going way George does present an alternative to the status quo; his daily act is a rallying cry against mediocrity, indifference, boredom. Isn’t this what “critical design” is supposed to be all about?

Originally published in ICON magazine
Issue 404 | 2007

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