... Twentieth-century design is over now. Anything can look like anything now. You can put a pixel of any color anywhere you like on a screen, you can put a precise dot of ink anywhere on any paper, you can stuff any amount of functionality into chips. The limits aren't to be found in the technology any more. The limits are behind your own eyes, people. They are limits of habit, things you've accepted, things you've been told, realities you're ignoring. Stop being afraid. Wake up. It's yours if you want it. It's yours if you're bold enough.
Are you bold enough? I can't tell you that. That's beyond my ability to judge. You have to tell me that.
I take designers with complete and utter seriousness. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the people who design the technical infrastructure of daily life are placed to become the most powerful and influential social group in the world. Because you are the people who are loose enough to understand the full scale of the potential, but together enough to do something practical about it in real life.
You only feel tangential, because you're used to living under the floorboards of art, commerce and engineering. But the twentieth century's house has burned down, and the space beneath the floorboards is huge. It's a tremendous, vast, creative space.
You have no real rivals. Politics are sterile. Banks are in a frenzy. Capitalists don't know what to tell you to do. Venture capital is a mob scene. The military can't take casualties. Religion is a joke. Scientists are losing government patronage and going broke. The fine arts certainly aren't gonna stop you. Engineers are obsessed with technical sweetness, they despise the end user and don't understand consumer trends. But designers: you're right in a booming market, and you have the public eye. You're without rivals; there's no one else on the public stage. This could be your profession's greatest, most golden moment. Ever! Ever.
Or maybe not. You tell me. I've said enough now, and we're out of time. Thanks for your attention...
STERLING, Bruce. Speech at Industrial Designers Society of America national conference
Chicago: IDSA, July 17, 1999