There’s been a lot of talk lately about design’s power to do good and foster change on a mass scale. Sure, I drink that Kool-Aid, serving it up to my clients and students, too. Sometimes, though, the best “good” design is for a small audience of the people closest to us. Pentagram partner Eddie Opara mentioned recently that he thought design wasn’t “about solving problems. It’s about making people happy.” There’s no doubt in my mind that David Laferriere’s design project has made his kids happy, and what isn’t “good” about that?
This project also highlights my ambivalence around design’s attachment to beauty, often at the expense of everything else. Like any designer, I can get overly obsessed with the form of what I’m making. I gush with envy over stunningly crafted design and long to emulate it my own work. But getting stoned on aesthetics makes it easy lose sight of exactly who the design is for, what it’s supposed to do, why I’m going through all this trouble to make something in the first place. I’m not enamored with Laferriere’s individual bag drawings as art objects, but I am moved by the overall gesture and the discipline (not to mention love) it took to accomplish the project as a whole.
Laferriere’s bag drawings are a reminder that design’s power is not only visual, but that it also has the ability to facilitate better connections and relationships between people—at any scale. I hope his local grocery store never runs out of sandwich bags.