Creativity under conditions of scarcity is too often defined by the homily ‘less is more’. But design can transcend the limit of limits.
Traced back to its medieval roots, escarceté, scarcity means insufficiency of supply. A lack. And in the face of lack the natural response is to limit: limit materials, limit energy, limit spending. But this is to confuse scarcity with limit. Scarcity is not simply a matter of the material world. It is also inextricably linked to the patterns, the causes and effects, of the social lifeworld. Design under conditions of scarcity is thus about much more than physical realisation, of matters of fact that can be measured. It must also address matters of concern, the way that those physical objects are brought into being and, more importantly, how they are used, how they behave and how people behave with them. As such, design does not find itself constricted by the supposed limits of scarcity; design de-limits by finding other ways of doing things.
Image from Living Together in Paradise courtesy of Artist Nguyen Manh Hung, Copyright 2011 - 2013 Nguyen Manh Hung. All rights reserved.