Hi Jamie — All good questions. The big question you ask is if there is a solution for this. I have thought about this a lot. I think the McDonaldization aspect of any industry is primarily profit driven. And it is really hard to move the corporate American machine (or any corporation). I have written a lot lately about how profit-driven thinking foils design. I understand businesses have to make money in order to stay in business. But where do you draw the line? It becomes an ethical issue at some point.
The answer is quite simple and yet complex. Each job we take is a vote. While we all need to pay our bills and put food in our mouths, it doesn’t mean we have to stay in a place where we are dehumanized or severely restricted in our ability to shape and change the world in our own way through design.
The design community, in general, seems to have a Bohemian mindset. We have, in recent years, seen designers (and other employees) walk out of large corporations like Google, Facebook and Microsoft over ethical issues. I have faith designers will continue to resist — even when they are in bad positions. I have faith designers will stop taking the positions (or stop working in them) that do not enrich the lives of others or their own.
This article was mostly an observation I had from so many ongoing conversations with people such as yourself. That’s where it starts — with you, me and an observation. That’s how movements begin.