Current 12/2008

Value

Why this sudden and immense drop in value? Only because the beholders (the market) decided this way.

The global economic figures are devastating, but on a sector level or on the level of individual companies, devaluations - and value fluctuations - have been nightmarish unreal. The financial services sector of the biggest economy on earth became almost worthless in a few months. The self proclaimed champion of the free enterprise forcefully nationalised its entire financial industry, which was responsible for about 40% of the national corporate profit a year ago. Especially the nations (UK & US) that pride themselves on the level of their financial innovations had to be curbed for a while in their trading freedom to prevent that the former financial mammoths were 'shortening' (speculating) each other completely into the ground. Creative destruction this is called by the believers. It is often argued - especially by the ones who earn most from it - that free markets are the most effective wealth (value) creating system around. Well, we know now that this system is capable of evaporating massive amounts of value in one big bonfire that can literally take place overnight. No other economic system has ever proven to possess such a gigantic terminator power. The free market needed some adult oversight given by national governments and financed by the taxpayers to prevent a total collapse of world trading and financing system.

 

gold

 

There is no longer any doubt that bankers with the help of global communication networks, computers, brokers, economists and mathematicians in their guest for financial innovation (fuelled by greed) have created economic weapons of mass destruction, E-bombs.

The really frightening part of this type of explosive devices is that nobody knows precisely how or when they detonate. A sudden drop in value may cause a detonation, but value is a very flimsy notion. Value seems to be very hard to define, let alone predicting any change of it, despite all the economists, accountants, rating agencies and a plethora of other value surveyors who have made a well paid (and often regulated) living out of this activity, because our system runs on the value we give to matter, material as well as immaterial. The professionals have created dictionaries with long lists of different types of value, like notional value, face value, true value accounting, perceived value, fundamental value, gross value, customer value. But all these niceties have only created an economic environment where complex financial constructions have become the foundation of almost any type of activity at the cost that nobody really knows anymore what they are precisely talking about. Possessions were so much 'leveraged' by financial constructions that its value became anybody's guess. Bankers were the first to show their cluelessness about the instruments they had created themselves (leaving even the most famous central banker in history 'shocked in disbelief), but soon all other players followed. They have been very capable in taking good care of themselves in recent years - sometimes even up to perverse levels - but rendered themselves practically worthless in figuring out sensible remedies to stop the meltdown.

The recent events have put the professionalism of an entire industry into a different light. I have always believed that the value of the design profession was difficult to define and that our methodology of creation (value adding) was almost impossible to describe. But I now realise that these conditions left me unpretentious and uncertain. And that is an important professional condition. Professionals of which I assumed that they were light years ahead of us have shown that some of them need to be addressed with a highest level of precaution. Some may turn out to be snake oil sales people or even mad dogs. Limitless arrogance and deceptive aggression carefully put in an expensive dress appear to be the most reliable quality. The financial industry is painfully self obsessed, valuing shrewdness over brightness and liability and it will remain that way until outsiders, clients like all of us, no longer accept this situation.

The causes of the economic meltdown maybe complex but one aspect seems to tower over all others and that is the general ignorance. A shocking level of ignorance by practically all directly involved. Designers can help to improve insight and understanding in financial matters by employing their skills to enhance accessibility and comprehension. Their contribution may add essential value to the society.

 

Winging It

seagull flock.jpg

 

There is no sensible other way to keep yourself in the professional air where agressive whirlwinds are a daily reality.

There is no point any longer in decent preparation. It takes too much time. Innovation will overhaul you in the process. The average person sitting behind a computer deals daily with about twenty different software, which are updated at least once every year, but often more frequently. Keeping up-to-date, even with the software we use most, has become a hopeless uphill battle. We all have a large number of superb software race cars installed behind our screens (getting more sophisticated every season), but we do not know how to steer all this power with our pad, mouse and keyboard, so we use our magnificent machinery as if it was a bicycle.

We wing it in a unsophisticated manner.

Nobody really cares. Moreover, nobody really knows.

So we keep on winging it.

We are in a constant speed dating session with reality, hopping from one excitement to the next. It all works marvellously well as long as you keep yourself in the air. Landing and sitting still may be fatal. It has to be avoided at all cost.

 

Updates

Thomas Couderc work updates

Thomas Couderc has updated their work, see it here.

Clément Vauchez work updates

Clément Vauchez has updated their work, see it here.

Alexandre Dimos work updates

Alexandre Dimos has updated their work, see it here.

Yu Guang work updates

Yu Guang has updated their work, see it here.

Alan Chan work updates

Alan Chan has updated their work, see it here.

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