Design serves as an extended human memory. Outside of ourselves, through our design and art, we can safeguard stories and meaning that we may not be able to retain genetically. It is easy to see through history that with strong enough work, and a long enough period of time, many (if not most) creative works last longer than the cultures which created them.
It’s interesting to think what the work we are creating now for our clients, the design we do that shapes the corner of American culture that we intersect, will likely outlive us, our clients, and even our country.
Hundreds of years from now, what will our work communicate to the audience that finds it, whomever they may be? Will it still be relevant? What will it tell about the priorities of our culture? This twist in meaning is expressed well in these last lines from Percy Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
This beautiful scenario is exactly the opposite of what we often hear will last, transcend, and transform cultures (power structures, celebrities, etc). It is not people who last for centuries, but art and design. It is easy to get lost in the business of daily life and forget that the work you are creating may well outlive you. What will your work say to the future?