Preparing for a designer’s role in the world

This one’s for Tom and Tasos – the use of the word design with clarity. Much has been discussed by us in our conversations, my recent one with Tasos and also with Niblettes, regarding the recent article in The Guardian written by Stephen Bayley. Sir? If you were to read this post, know that you’ve made a fan.

What Mr Bayley says, in essence, is that the meaning of the word design – call it the brand equity of design viz., the qualities, the value system, the intent, have been diluted in recent times by the advent of the ‘designer’ also known as the rockstar designer. A mere snippet,

The architect Le Corbusier rightly said design was ‘intelligence made
visible’. For a while that was true, and magnificently so, but nowadays
less attractive qualities are often revealed when the ‘designer’ is at
work. Attention-seeking frivolity would be one example. Once, the
greatest designers gave speed and direction to a century’s thoughts,
creating objects by which their age would be remembered. Now, too many
designers are involved in feckless neophilia, a restless quest for
novelty cynically separated from purpose or need.

Conventional wisdom, as gleaned from regular readership of the community message boards on Core77, the industrial designer’s hangout, implies that for young designers coming out of school there are only two career paths. One, a heads down nose to the grindstone approach of the studio or corporate employed designer and the other, by becoming a rockstar designer whose name can be merchandized.

In that oft repeated cliche, "today’s world", the rockstar path is one, imho, whose time has passed. Its obsolete really. I mean, whereas as recent articles show, "starchitects" are great draws, just like movie stars [Richard Farson would be so pleased] the rockstar designer hogging the PR waves just doesn’t cut it.

My traffic stats for the Design Directory show the ridiculous number of hits received for my recent post on Jonathan Ive, the almost reclusive low profile undisputed icon of industrial design today. He shuns the publicity, preferring to create perfection in the privacy of his office kitchen, content with the appreciative glances of his closest collaborators. And yet, the beauty of his vision, manifest tangibly in pieces like the iPod, attempts to yank him into the glare of the limelight over and over again. Talk about your work speaking for itself.

And that, I think, should be the role of design – ‘supernormal’ design comes to mind and designers today. When the product of your mind, no matter how small or how humble, can affect positive change, that is success.

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3 Responses to Preparing for a designer’s role in the world

  1. Nice post Niti, Super Normal hey? Jasper Morrison demonstrates such restraint. Hard to argue with, easy to like.

  2. jens says:

    ‘We have to liberate design from fixating on the visual,’ says Mau. ‘Instead we wanted to think about design as the capacity to effect change.’
    and with the other design – with the visual – it does not matter if star or not. stars will always exist, and they will always be attractive to the masses and less though to an elite who always and with every surface asks for a certain extra to come with it.

  3. jens says:

    design is working on one solution with respect to a multitude of constraints.
    design is finding the one solution that answers a thousand questions.
    that is design – mr handwriting stephen bayley, sir…

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