SHARPEN YOUR PHRONESIS

Material culture has always been the barometer of prosperity in human history. Through a process that is rarely conscious and we might not fully understand, the objects that surround us record and transfer to the future diverse information about the time and the conditions they were created, the people that used them, the life they were living etc. In that sense designers today don’t just design objects, the do far more than that: they design a world that is determined by these objects and a society that is determined by this world.

The way we create things is - and has always been - based on what we could call archetypal thought. That is: we start from constructing an archetype, an ideational form, which we design and set as our goal. We then act according to the plan, based on reaching that goal. Inevitably, there is a distance between the desirable and the feasible, what we think and what we do. Our intentions might be sublime but our practice is always imperfect.
Everyone who makes material things faces this ethical dilemmas: Why make anything in a world of plenty? How to produce by doing no harm? What is valuable and what valueless? Is using more technology the answer? Where to stop once you start processing the raw matter?
The most important principal of moral act, the one that leads in doing right, is the principal of “mean”, which represents a balance between extremes. In Aristotle's Ethics, the ability to position the mean is connected to phronesis, the most important of all virtues because it allows all the other virtues to be displayed at the right time and in the right way for the right reasons. Phronesis is the combination of moral will and moral skill, one’s ability to determine what is the right thing to do in a specific situation, to understand what needs to be achieved, how to arrive there and how to act towards that aim.

Phronesis is clearly an essential skill for a designer. It enables him or her to work towards the realisation of the good of the individual human being as well as the good of the whole. In design, the desired mean is not an answer you reach and then are free to apply for ever. It is the everchanging process of searching for that mean that makes the designer act in a moral way. It’s not about following the rules but about being able to understand the exception of the rule. It’s about improvisation, about using your moral skills in pursuit of the right aim.


In this workshop we will introduce the concept of phronesis as a new mentality and a method for the contemporary designer. The is only one common and personal goal: eudaimonia - having fun - living a happy life.

At MADE LABS:
  • Slot 2
At MADE LABS:

2nd slot . 29.July—3.August

Workshop by: Kostas Lambridis