designers – the archetype – Odysseus

This post is in a series of commentaries on a class running at Stanford, Winter Quarter 2010 – “Transformative Design” ENGR 231 – [Link]

Today I got to thinking about the character type of the “designer”. Not so much a craftsperson or artisan, nor an inventor, nor a fine artist. Someone attuned to particular circumstances, to problem solving, pragmatic and opportunistic.



The designer is not associated with Apollo, Mousagetes, leader of the Muses, offering poetic and artistic inspiration, creative insight. This is too removed.


Hephaistos in his forge


Daidalos and Pasiphaia

The designer is neither a divine engineer, Hephaistos, nor a smart inventor, like Daedalus, who made human flight possible, who created the first automaton.

Smart and resourceful, listening and watching carefully, the designer is polytropos, turning to this and that, cunning, potentially deceitful, selling you something you don’t want, possessed of metis, a pointed cleverness for solving specific problems.

This is Odysseus.

(And Hermes – the translator, mediator, trickster.)


Odysseus, polytropic man of metis, outwits the Sirens

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