Understanding of Zeitgeist (context) is necessary to fully realize the true and deeper meaning of anything. Zeitgeist is NOT an art or design movement itself. Zeitgeist is also NOT the products created by design. Zeitgeist is instead loosely translated to mean “the spirit of the time and place”. It is the result of all of the surrounding variables that effect the way people think and do things and as a result of that thinking, what they design and make—or innovate. Examples of some of those main variables which influence how we think and what we do are; culture, geography (where we live), belief systems (religion), and technology (inventions).

Scholars have long maintained that each era has a unique spirit, a nature or climate that sets it apart from all other epochs. In German, such a spirit is known as “Zeitgeist,” from the German words Zeit, meaning “time,” and Geist, meaning “spirit” or “ghost.” Some writers and artists assert that the true zeitgeist of an era cannot be known until it is over, and several have declared that only artists or philosophers can adequately explain it. We don’t know if that’s true, but we do know that “zeitgeist” has been a useful addition to the English language since at least 1835.

Zeitgeist (spirit of time/place) is necessary to fully realize meaningful solutions. This is true because it seeks to understand the contextual environment in which something(s) occurred. It is the result of all of the variables effecting the way people think and as a result, what they make and how they communicate. It is the significant experiences of individuals plus those major events in which the time those persons lived plus any other unique details of culture, belief, technology, etc. that define a specific moment, decade, era or epoch as significant. (the Roaring twenties, the Psychedelic 60’s, the Great Depression, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, the digital age, etc.)

Primary influences of Zeitgeist are:

  • Culture (customs, social forms, & material traits shared by a group)
  • Geography (where we live)
  • Belief Systems (religion)
  • Political Influence (government)
  • Economics (production, distribution, consumption)
  • Technology (inventions)

The primary result of Zeitgeist is a paradigm shift.