A Design for Life
I suppose I should start off by explaining what this blog will be about. The first, most simple answer is: design. Architecture, furniture, product, graphic or even automotive. I plan to keep a running commentary on what I see in the world of design around me, and what I think of it. I don’t mean that I will bring back pictures of beautiful things I see around me, I mean that I want to try analyse what I see – to try and make sense of it. It’ll be an attempt to understand the role that design plays in our lives. Part of my job is to be aware of design trends, and in a broader way, to have a sense of what is ‘going on’ in the world of design. Of course, design doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it is tied up with the rest of the world and our lives and what is going on out there. Mid-century modern designs, for example, were created with mass production in mind because it was an age in love with the machine and the possibilities of new materials. There was a sense that ‘good design’ should be accessible to everyone. The Bauhaus school, particularly, was concerned with rebuilding the world with new values after the devastation that World War 2 caused in Europe. It was an attempt to start afresh. You can see how it connects with the political and social climate of the times. Modernism is probably the most influential design movement of the last century. We still see it inspiring design all around us, even if it is has been reinterpreted, refined and reoriented for our times, and not necessarily practised as it was first conceived. I can’t help thinking, however, that we’re living in the middle of another revolutionary period in design. Part of it, of course, is the eco movement, but beyond that, the whole model of design and the definition of a designer seems to be shifting. At the moment, design appears to be moving away from the idea of a solitary designer of genius. Designers have become more interested in collaborations, working with communities, using skills that exist and cultural traditions that are meaningful to those who will live with and use the designs. The movement’s impetus stems from an understanding of design’s social role. It takes the principles of the green movement a step further to include socially, economically and environmentally sustainable design. The latest trends in design are inspired by indigenous knowledge, local skills and materials, artisnal goods, community involvement and a sense of cultural heritage. These days the breeding grounds for new design are so rich, because there are advances in technology that will prove revolutionary, too. Technology is setting form free of function. No matter what the function of an object, its form is a little black box. Gone are the days when a camera, a telephone, a computer, a Dictaphone, a GPS and a music player were separate things. Now it’s all just one interactive screen. The iPod, the object that ushered in a new age of design and spearheaded a small revolution, is all but defunct. And the tablet, which seems to be pointing the way to the future, is still in its infancy. My point, I suppose, is that this is a very fertile time for design as we negotiate new ways of living. There are lots of changes in the air, and design seems to be playing a central role in broader changes in the world around us. I think our times will give rise to watershed changes in design, and I guess I hope to capture some of the change in my commentary.