Ever since I shelled out $50 for a Human Design reading – a 2021 New Year’s special from a woman I follow on Instagram that piqued my curiosity – my social media has been filled with a particular kind of New Age speak.
“I’m a manifesting generator 1/3 with splenic authority,” a YouTube commenter declares below a short I’m watching. A reel on Instagram promises to teach me “How to love a Reflector” in 30 seconds; a “Projector’s guide to success” is waiting for my double tap.
Chances are, if you’re on social media and the algorithm has detected a sniff of passing interest in astrology or spirituality, you too have been treated to similar posts. But what exactly is Human Design? And why do so many people suddenly care more that their partner’s a Projector than a Pisces?
A hippyish blend of astrology and Myers-Briggs personality tests, Human Design was the brainchild of Robert Krakower, a Canadian ad executive who moved to Ibiza in the early 80s. In this hedonistic paradise, Krakower had a mystical experience with a “Voice”, which transmitted information to him over what was presumably a very intense eight days. Inspired, he changed his name to Ra Uru Hu and in 1989 wrote a book, Rave I’Ching, sharing what he’d learned.
Yet despite being around since the 1990s, Human Design has really hit its stride over the past couple of years – according to Google Trends, searches exploded around the same time Covid-19 did, and its popularity has only increased since. It’s been endorsed by many personal development influencers, from Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow to global manifestation expert Lacy Phillips.
Ra’s system categorises people into five different energetic “types”: manifestor, manifesting generator, generator, reflector or projector. Your birth chart – similar to a natal chart in astrology – reveals information about your personality, how you relate to people, how you work, your life’s purpose and the name of your first pet (OK, I made that last one up).
Krakower had a mystical experience with a “Voice”, which transmitted information to him over eight days
“When I got a good understanding of my chart, I felt very seen,” says Erin Laishley, a 32-year-old recruiter and EFT practitioner. “My profile is a two five, which is a hermit/heretic. And a lot of the things that sit within that profile really resonate with me, how I am in social situations and how I manage my energy. I would get tired easily and wonder what was wrong with me when I couldn’t have the same level of energy as those around me. It’s made me feel a bit more accepting of myself.”
When Laishley and her husband were looking to move from Sydney to the Central Coast, she stayed mindful of her design tendency – as an emotional manifestor – to “get really excited about something and think it’s the best idea in the world, and then a day or two later, start to feel a bit tentative about it, before coming to that clarity point where I’ve felt all the emotions, and can come to make my decision.”
The first house the couple viewed didn’t tick the boxes, but Laishley liked it enough to make an offer, which she later rescinded. “I remember thinking, I can’t make an expensive decision based on that initial rush. I deliberately paused for a couple of days, and it was such a clear switch for me to a ‘no’, once I’d gone through that initial excitement.”
For midwife and business owner Jen Troy, Human Design has played a role in self-discovery. “I heard about it on the To Be Magnetic podcast, and I was curious how it could help me better understand my energy and those closest to me, as well,” says the 34 year old, who adds that her sense of identity had shifted after becoming a mother.
“It really helped me understand and appreciate who I am, and who I am here to be; I felt like I was reading my energetic blueprint.” The reading has even helped her understand her children (“it helps me parent them in a way that’s true to who they are, rather than trying to get them to behave in a way that isn’t in alignment with their energy type”).
In the 90s, when Human Design first hit the New Age scene, there was no Instagram, no podcasts and no self-described expert on every social media corner ready and waiting to give you a reading: there was just Ra Uru Ha and his book with its complex system. These days, there are teacher trainings, apps, podcasts and a flurry of Insta accounts that will help you find your “soul’s road map,” per Jenna Zoe, one of the most successful Human Design experts – she has an app, teacher training and 102K Instagram followers.
Simply hand over your birth date, time and location (and, of course, money), and find out what your chart has to say about who you are, and how to live your life. Who to trust? Who can say.
Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer believes that one of the reasons Human Design has hit the mainstream is a complex combination of primal human desires and the fact that we’re living in chaotic times. Is it any wonder that a cosmic road map has risen to prominence alongside Trump, Brexit, the pandemic and climate change?
And as Millennials and Gen Z increasingly identify as non-religious (in the 2021 census, the proportion was 40 percent, an increase from 30 per cent in 2016), are Human Design and its ilk stepping in to fill the gap?
“It’s this really interesting intersection of making meaning in a world where you can’t control a lot of what’s going on, and forming a sense of belonging,” says Brewer, who has had a reading herself. “Belonging is a really powerful emotion, and often these systems create a sense of connection and community.
“If it’s not hurting you, and you’re not having to pay $1,000 for a special mantra from a guru of questionable origin, then it probably can’t hurt. I’d just be looking at whether you’re using it holistically with other strongly evidence-based things that help.”
Is it any wonder that a cosmic road map has risen to prominence alongside Trump, Brexit, the pandemic and climate change?
I still don’t quite get my chart, which the Human Design expert explained to me in a 15 minute-voice note ( I’m a 5/1 Generator with sacral authority.). But hearing a complete stranger tell me that my combination of codes and sacral authorities and incarnation crosses (no, I have no idea either) made me a naturally good teacher sparked something in my brain, and ego. Yep, I felt seen.
And it gave me a surprisingly significant confidence boost that I didn’t know I needed: maybe I could actually start offering some online classes as part of my doula business. And while I don’t fully buy into the whole Human Design thing or, hell, even fully understand my chart, that one nugget did change how I saw my career – and prompted a new income stream. I’d say it was $50 well spent.
What’s your Human Design Type?
Generators: the worker bees, who can do it all but really need to just do the things that are a full body ‘yes’.
Manifesting Generators: the jack-of-all-trades who thrives on variety and can get a reputation for being flaky.
Manifestors: you get things going, you’re a constant creator with a strong energetic presence – a firestarter with a tendency to burn out.
Projectors: helpers and guides, who sometimes get people’s noses out of joint with unsolicited advice
Reflectors: the rarest type, excellent judges of character who work best living in attunement with the moon.