Maarten Baas' 'Clay Furniture - Stacking Chairs'
Is 'Good Design' an asphyxiating dogma?
Design is a peculiar activity: It's a creative process, but a process that subscribes to and reinforces certain restrictive attitudes. It can be rigid and self-policing, since a profession that earns its living by discerning what is good and bad must necessarily become judgmental. Ultimately this judgmental nature creates and enshrines certain points of view, which left unchallenged, become dogma. Today, one could argue that this dogma, generally predicated on longstanding ideas of 'rightness' and 'beauty' is choking the profession down, and worse yet, stifling its creativity as it faces some truly great problemsproblems which if handled with new thinking and true creativity, will define the substance, practice and contribution of a generation of designers.
Embracing the word "ugly"so readily identified with everything popular design claims to have been a reaction againstseems a logical choice if we are to create a vision for the practice of design freed from the restrictions and prejudices of its past.
Pretty: Right priced beauty
But wait. Truth and beauty are good things, right? Not necessarily. Design's traditional preference on establishing 'order' has had the consequence of driving a collateral and unchecked pursuit of beauty. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, of course, and as such is subject to the vagaries of cultural bias and popular opinion. By degrees this pursuit of beauty has gradually been replaced with the much more predictable and less admirable accomplishment of achieving 'pretty'. And while consumer culture, planned obsolesce and design culture in general have benefited soundly from the creation, production and documentation of pretty thingsthe pursuit of pretty hasn't pushed the discipline of design into the tighter, less comfortable and ultimately more rigorous inquiries that outside forces (sustainability for example) are aligning to demand of us.
How might product designers better position the discipline to take on the hairy problems of sustainability, economic uncertainty, global competition and the like? Well, one thing is for certain, simply co-opting present patterns of consumption into activities and services linked to conservation won't get us there. That path might work if the world population of 6.5 billion was to stay fixed, but with an additional 3 billion consumers arriving to the party by 2050 we'll need to find more expedient (read: more creative) solutions.
Tjep's 'XXL Chair' and Front Design's 'Sketch Furniture'
PrettyUGLY: The case for 'UGLY' thinking in popular design
Whether attributable to a crisis of faith or economic malaise, High Design's recent fascination with the aesthetics of the unorthodox has given rise to some of the freshest design proposals of recent memory. It's too early to tell whether these musings signal a genuine turning point in the evolution of design, but the newfound acceptance of UGLY as a legitimate voice in design sets the stage for some interesting possibilities at a time when the profession faces deep challenges.
Longtime anathema of design circles, I'd like to suggest that design capitalize on UGLY's present arrival on the scene to boldly re-imagine itself and its future. Appropriating UGLY affords a latitude that would serve to liberate design and design thinking, expediting the introduction of new voices and ideas that might stimulate and revitalize the practice of design. Embracing a word so readily identified with everything popular design claims to have been a reaction against seems a logical choice if we are to create a vision for the practice of design freed from the restrictions and prejudices of its past. (more...)