There are far too many clichés. Far too many efforts to re-frame an issue, its description and its language, in the effort to blur our understanding. Far too many attempts to quiet the already contemplative. To borrow from a practiced re-framer in John McCain, it should be about straight talk. And with that, comes a call for clear communication. Today "marks a new day" in American politics which should – fingers crossed – signal a sweeping change in the previously divisive and failed strategies of a shamed ex-President's son and his yellowed, graying posse. It couldn't happen too soon. This is when the real work begins; we have no excuses in that we have received exactly what we asked for.
There exists a personal summons by thinking people to serve this administration in some constructive manner. For designers it started long before the election, thanks at least in part to Shepard Fairey and Sol Sender who in their own ways demonstrated that solid visual design can inform and inspire in ways beyond expectation. Steve Heller, Bill Drenttel, and Ric Grefé have been typically lucid channels and yet perhaps the most effective calls for action have come from the voting game-changers themselves; the younger, often hushed side of the demographic. These voices, pens and pixels have pushed the discussion of design well beyond the duct-taped principles of Intelligent Design (which is neither intelligent or design but rather an assertion) to address issues related to the role of visual communications in society. Beyond Design for Democracy's call for a consistent and clear national ballot format, the Citizens Briefing Book focuses on even deeper issues related to design in a document intended specifically for its audience of one: the president. And designers of all stripes are coming together to address the important issues at hand. Poets, artists, filmmakers and designers are finally, no longer the enemies of state, but rather the avenues for statesmanship. We are moved to design cleaner energy sources and we are demanding personal, corporate, and governmental accountability in spending, consuming and saving. Design is everywhere and even a more mature societal construct is waking up to the fact that without careful attention, a lack of design can be at very least costly or disenfranchising, or at worst a life-and-death issue for future generations.
One line struck me as especially pertinent in Obama's January 18 pre-inauguration speech. He said, "But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard." Now I don't claim to know the origins of that idea or who originally coined it, but for me, it was Obama's clearest message. This is that moment. It's hard. To borrow from a tired cliché (and then let's agree to put them to rest), today marks the first day of the rest of our lives. Let's design it in a manner that is clearly defined and accessible for our children. And it's okay if it's beautiful.