Design Alchemy: How Web3’s Design combines Science, Tech, and the Magic of Community to Build Better Projects
The legend of alchemy: the proto-scientific pursuit of metaphysical knowledge so one can transform matter from one form to a distinctive other. Or, more appropriately, the transformation of the ordinary into something extraordinary. Whether learned through storybooks, through an award winning anime, or in this very paragraph, the multivalent mythos of alchemy in its time had the power to enrapture diviners, merchants, and scientists alike. And, to this very day, there is something indelibly captivating with the philosophy of transmutation. As Web3 grows, so does the excitement around its crystallizing effect in the everyday life for individuals and for collectives – with this in mind, there comes a unique parallel to the ideologies of alchemy and that of the Web3 design. Herein lies Design Alchemy, our crux of science, technology, and of community “magic.”
What is Design Alchemy?
“[Design Alchemy] is the process of envisioning, forming, exploring, creating (and destroying) across a group of people. No one person owns the process but we all have a part.”
- Adam Hayes, [@adam_ha_yes], Co-founder, Wonderverse
Have you ever seen a project or product whose campaign, from start to finish, is so sleek, so cohesive, and undeniably good that it makes you think, “Whoever worked on this made magic happen”?
That, in our eyes, is the result of Design Alchemy.
One might ask, why the word Alchemy? This archaic term might seem off when one is talking about subjects of science and technology, but in Web3, and especially in contemporary movements that center innovation, we must acknowledge the power of creators and organizations in their harnessing of, yes, science, yes, technology, but also the non-quantifiable variable of human dreaming.
Alchemy predates chemistry and metallurgy, yet encompasses not just the pursuit of theoretics and the technical. It marries into it a distinctively human desire to philosophize: that there is, in its core, a social component of shared beliefs that aim to make sense of the world around us, through quantitative, qualitative, and subconscious lenses.
In such, with projects created in the Metaverse, we see that in the most ingenious works there lies an undercurrent of activating the human psyche and the social systems of art, finance, and media. When building better projects, Design Alchemy comes into play when the individual or organization builds their work not solely on metrics: but introduces in their process one might call “the Midas touch.” That is to say, in Web3, a commitment to community mythos carries in it that golden ratio, that glittering path towards success.
The Power of Symbols
“The entire universe is perfused with signs, if it is not composed exclusively of signs.”
- Charles Sanders Pierce, 17~18th c. American philosopher, chemist, & polymath
Alchemy comes with a compendium of formulas, built out via a common language that relies on the usage of symbols. In the study of semiotics, there is an understanding of the power of symbols via a person’s perception of the universe.
In Psychology, images and symbols are how our subconscious mind perceives our reality (rather than spoken language). We are able to tell ourselves stories, build entire versions of selves, and form a psyche through visual information. Regardless if one loves or loves to rag on Cryptopunks, hexagonal twitter pics, and other PFP born projects: there is an undeniable power with Web3 in its marriage to visual art.
So now we enter the Metaverse: a place of digital imagination, of networks and of genesis pieces. Aptly named, despite its Judeo-Christian roots, we see a centering towards the act of creation. This round, however, the big bang is in the hands of humanity rather than what one might deem divine. Each individual can build up their own cut of universe, stitched together finely via blockchain, and reap the benefits of their work.
Proof of Work centers the power of algorithms. Proof of Stake centers the power of a promise. With power comes energy, and energy, for humans, needs a home to enact transformation.
DAOs as Crucible
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations represent a matrix in which people across the globe can connect according to their interests and mission – they can dissolve the expectation of concrete workplaces in the favor of something more amorphous, asynchronous, and agile. As an allegory to this, the crucible is a vessel utilized to take something solid and melt it into liquid using heat (ie. energy) for creation of something new.
DAOs appropriately can be described as the vessel that holds the skills and resources of its constituents, and that when paired with workflow (energy), creates opportunities for fluid collaborations that lead to new creation.
Whether with social DAOs (like FWB, Yup.io, etc,), that use their crucible to amalgamate networks, interpersonal connectivity, curation and “fun”, or finance/currency DAOs (like ReFiDAO, BanklessDAO, etc.), that act as crucible for innovating new fruits of innovation and ways about accomplishing goals, seeing DAOs as a container allows us to understand the fluidity of labor.
And from that fluidity, the DAO can redirect its member’s goals, dreams, and efforts into solid frameworks built for the future.
“I really like the idea of regenerative energy exchange. Having all processes and interaction generate more than was taken. This does break the laws of physics, but I think social energy operates by different laws!”
- En Canada, [@cult_leader_en] Head of Community, Wonderverse
Anthropologist Margaret Mead theorized that the first sign of human civilization was not grand temples, nor strange artifacts, nor age-tarnished weapons: it was in fact the ancient remains of a person whose femur, once broken, had healed. Simply put: an animal whose leg breaks in the wild — dies. Thus, it is human compassion, not competition, that led to the sustained growth and survival of our species.
Humans need each other, we rely on each other to move into the realm of innovation. Without the caring we put towards one another, and towards our collective joy, we would lack a key to what breeds innovation: transformation. Without togetherness, we do not have the things we know and love that makes life joyous.
At Wonder, we asked our community “What incentives did you find most valuable for participating in the community during our preseason?”
Almost half (47.1%) choose “sense of community.” This affirms this reality that in the act of creation (whether in community, product, or otherwise), there is a heavy emphasis on human togetherness. To create is to be human, and to be human means to create preciousness in tandem, with others, cohesively.
Web3 as Ouroboros
With Web3, the beauty of DAOs lies in the fact that it dreams to create a market which sustains itself. Ouroboros — a deified serpent that consumes its own tail, an alchemical symbol of infinity, acts as a powerful yet arcane metaphor for the digital zeitgeist that is Web3.
In many ways, the formation of this movement matches that of an ecosystem — one of which is built up of a plethora of trophic systems. Creation, consumption, or decay: these words trigger ideas of energy and matter cycling and recycling through interlocked simple and complex organisms. Currency, which acts as stand-in for resources or time, can be understood as this “energy and matter,” alongside creativity.
Normally, with science and technology, we are bound by the laws of physics. Matter cannot be created or destroyed — for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. But in pursuit of Chyrsopoeia, alchemy relies not on these laws but in many ways, the magic of subverting them. To make the unbelievable believable, to turn systems we once believed entrenched into dust!
Similarly, with Collective Chrysopoeia, DAOs and Web3 acolytes dream of a movement that, despite what we see as marketplace laws, fulfills its supporters without astute loss. Design Alchemy as a practice shall develop as an unraveling towards the methods of this movement.