JD Hooge is an American-based designer and Partner and Executive Creative Director at Instrument, a digital creative agency established in Portland, Oregon. JD Hooge creatively describes himself as a specialist in making the complex simple. Hooge runs Instrument alongside his 2 partners who build digital brands and products for every screen. In earlier stages of his life Hooge spent years coding, designing, and running various companies, he also worked as an interactive designer for a few years.
In September 2019, JD Hooge gave a wonderful light onto his thinking and views on reimagining design and the need to put humans back in the center on the TEDxPortland platform. Hooge gave a deep talk about the impact of design and designers on our lives and future while keeping the audience cheerful with stories about his childhood and his path to understanding the importance of design. The following is an excerpt of his views on design and a review of his talk.
Hooge starts by trying to connect the audience with his life by introducing everyone to his wife and three kids, also sharing a short story of how he tries to explain to his kids as design being his superpower to which his kids tuned him out and calling him a nerd.
The design is a superpower. And like the late, great Stan Lee reminded us, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Hooge emphasizes how the rapidly growing technology has brought changes in our daily behavior faster than we anticipated. He rightly says that the digital world dictates the
“In a world where our value is determined by our productivity, many of us find our every last minute captured, optimized, or appropriated as a financial resource by the technologies we use daily.”
— Jenny Odell, author of How to do Nothing
Since the revolution, we think technology brought about benefits to us, but now we realize how technology hijacks our focus and determines our thinking and views on what goes around us. Hooge gives us some examples from countless other designers and technologists unaware of human needs and designs that have been created that have biased benefits to some individuals or communities adversely affecting remaining others.
So noticing this need to find new solutions, many of us are waking up and are evaluating our relationships with technology. The major role no doubt needs to be played here by the tech giants about their role in society and living up to their responsibilities to put the humans back at the center.
Hooge highlights various individuals and agencies who are trying to come up with solutions or are pressuring tech giants to take ethical tech seriously, like Harris and his center for Human Technology who have been pressuring Silicon Valley giants having presented a complicated framework, introducing new language, and guidelines for “reversing human downgrading”.
Hooge points out others who are coming up with rather more tangible solutions aimed at
But as a society, it is not just the tech giants who have responsibility for the future but everyone- consumers, consumer rights, advocates, journalists, policymakers, designers, and technologists are on the inside of making a position to bring a major impact.
“Our knowledge, our awareness, and our values are baked into every user journey, every push notification, and every glowing icon we create. This means that we have the privilege — and the burden — of wielding more power to influence than ever before.”
— Kat Zhou
Hooge correctly suggests that we must remain students of our field and understand the powers at play. Instead of just prioritizing knowing design history, mood boards, hex colors, navigation patterns, we equally need to know world history, ethics, inclusion, and cognitive bias. Architects need qualified degrees and licenses and need to follow strict codes and regulations, they have a contract with the people. While web and digital design have no requirements and regulations as such.
These issues are complex and are not going to be solved in a short period or by any suggestive presentations or by any single individual or group. Hooge describes the design as having the power to paint pictures that visualize things in the future, and the ability to navigate through uncertainty.
Hooge says learning from our past is an important part of any solution, he gives the example of when industrialization led to low-cost production and the world saw it as the beginning of the end. But the problem was turned into an opportunity by Bauhaus by
Finally concluding Hooge says that we leverage technology in a purposeful resource to change the future, stating that being in the industry himself for nearly twenty years has helped him in keeping an open mind to possibilities of change. He puts forth his suggestions as to what everyone must do.
I completely agree with JD Hooge that it is high time we stop technology, decide the rhythms of our lives and start using it to grasp the consequences of our decisions towards society ethically. He aptly said that design has the power to influence the minds of people and with this power comes great responsibility to shape the future. The current scenario has our digital wellbeing at risk and therefore we should reimagine our industry and put the humans back in the center.