- GK VanPatter
RIP John Chris Jones
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
Just yesterday we heard the sad news that John Chris Jones (1927-2022) had passed away in the UK on August 13. In his honor we are reposting the 2006 NextD Journal conversation that I had with John Chris entitled Double Consciousness.
John Chris was author of the important 1970 book: "Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures and integral to the design methods movement of that era. What inspired him and how he later thought about the movement, wrestling with what was framed at that time as "rationality and intuition," is revealed in the Double Consciousness conversation.
Reflecting his introspective ways and his wide ranging interests Double Consciousness was one of the more conceptually oriented conversations to appear in NextD Journal. I was thrilled to chat with him and it took us approximately six months, on and off, to construct that conversation!
After Double Consciousness was published in NextD Journal he sent me several of his other books *Designing Designing 1991 and The Internet and Everyone 2000, inscribed which I highly value. In the latter book he included this note below inserted into page 331.
Like a note-in-a-bottle, lets read it today. Text from his page 331:
“Industrial Living as a Frozen Dream and our Awakening: Utopia, the spirit of perfection, suggests that we are not actually awake in this culture of living industrially but that we are all of us trapped in a dream of our modern ancestors, the pioneers of industrialism, who dreamt and created piece-by-piece the materialistic world in which we live and who dismantled the culture of what they called superstitions which had kept an earlier world in being.”
And what do you mean by that? asks Numerous, the voice of everyone. Do you mean to say that economic realism is a delusion, that the whole industrial world is not as real as we think? Yes i do says Utopia. Just look at the activities which take up our time. And then she recites a long list of which i hear only part… Well she is saying, There watching TV for a start, what could be more dreamlike?
And then there is doing repetitive work in the factory, there sitting in the classroom or commenting to work in train or in traffic jam, and there’s what we do at the office, which you can think of as writing the of this enormous dream that we’re living making laws and regulations working out its costs, designing it and persuading everyone to buy it.."
Suffice it to say that later in life John Chris was all about the awakening.
I always pictured him sitting outside on Hampstead Heath in the fresh air reflecting. Peace be with you John Chris Jones.
Notes to Readers:
*Understanding how his thinking evolved later in life I always thought the beautiful, less literal cover of his Designing Designing 1996 (shown in the header) best reflected that evolution, very different from the cover of Design Methods. If you read Double Consciousness you will see John Chris explain why that evolution occurrred for him personally.
*John Chris Jones, Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures was an early inspiration to our later book: Innovation Methods Mapping: Demystifying 80+ Years of Innovation Process Design.