Design is Dead

Via Kottke.org and PSFK Philippe Starck announces that design is dead and he is retiring. Long an advocate of immaterial culture, Starck confessed to Die Zeit "I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact." "Everything I designed was unnecessary. … design is a dreadful form of expression."

This is building toward another post that I’ve been hoping to make, which is to bring together my review of Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody with the MoMA Design and the Elastic Mind show. Just as we seem to have more faith in design than ever, just as design seems to be exploding, we are also faced with a culture for which design (as conventionally practiced) is simply not appropriate anymore. 

More later…developing.

 

Via Kottke.org and PSFK Philippe Starck announces that design is dead and he is retiring. Long an advocate of immaterial culture, Starck confessed to Die Zeit "I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact." "Everything I designed was unnecessary. … design is a dreadful form of expression."

This is building toward another post that I’ve been hoping to make, which is to bring together my review of Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody with the MoMA Design and the Elastic Mind show. Just as we seem to have more faith in design than ever, just as design seems to be exploding, we are also faced with a culture for which design (as conventionally practiced) is simply not appropriate anymore. 

More later…developing.

 

9 thoughts on “Design is Dead

  1. Design paradox
    Probably we are living an apparent paradox. Conventional design, devoted to tangible products, could be dying. However “design thinking” is prevading almost everything as a strategy for problem solving. The final success of the conventional design is not to get products, but to develop a general approach for the “intangible world”.

  2. no, it isn’t
    No, design isn’t dead. This is like all the very annoying commentary from the post-critical crowd about architecture. Design is not dead, it’s expanded and different. Maybe form is different. Maybe commentary is. But please Kazys, I beg you, reconsider.

    1. on design culture

      But the post-critical crowd are all saying that theory is dead, all that’s left is design, right? I dunno, I haven’t heard anything from the post-critical folks in years, so I’m not really sure what they’re arguing for. 

      Maybe another way to look at this is that design was never really alive in the first place, or at least not since 1950s Germany. This is what ate at me in the Design and the Elastic Mind show…no matter how pretty the stuff was, I was left thinking, this stuff isn’t really my everyday experience of information culture. Similarly, a colleague recently asked the rhetorical question: when’s the last time you drove past a blob/post-critical/parametric/scripted building? Unless you live in the Netherlands (and even then), that world of design simply doesn’t exist. Design is always held off in the near-proximate future (we’re almost ready to do this, just not quite). 

      Instead, I look at the world of open source, of remix, of really bad self-made content, of Maker culture. That seems to be where the action is. When’s the last time someone like Starck had any influence? I always try to look beyond the academy and what I see outside of it is a DIY culture similar to that of the early 1970s (which of course is what so many dissertations are looking at now). A commonly held design icon of the last year is the iPhone, yet what really strikes me is that no matter how much the design was held up as evidence of the virtues of design-thinking, a massive number of people (estimates range from 20 to 40% of all owners) have jailbroken their phones even at the risk of voiding their warrantees. I’d argue that in many ways hacking is a counter-design movement and hacking is at the core of information culture. 

      To be sure, I have to hold out some believe in virtues of design—likely you and I argee on the same thing in terms of believing in the expanded and different—but the design culture that Wallpaper* and Dwell—this world of objects so brilliant that they would transform our lives—promoted for so long seems to be expiring very very fast and my sense is that Starck realized that pointing that out was the only thing he could do to get publicity at this stage. 

      I think that right now the parameters of what design will be are very murky. It’s certainly not the crazy obsession with green design that we’ve been seeing although the best of that will be streamlined into whatever comes next. My sense is that the kind of thinking that Koolhaas did in the early 1990s about programme (especially temporally-based programme) will become interesting again. Form, I suspect, has finally had its day for a while, except maybe in the academy. 

      1. Is design dead, or just
        Is design dead, or just passé? Or perhaps how we define it just needs a “brand refresh”? Also, is it still appropriate to conflate, as you do with Starck, the design with the designer? Collective design seems to be surfacing, but is there a collective form that goes along with it? All the Maker stuff popped up in the Cooper Hewitt show last year and also is tucked here and there in Design and the Elastic Mind, both shows looks, collectively, like a week on Boing Boing.

        1.  
          But is it fair to say

           

          But is it fair to say that I’m conflating Starck with design? Maybe Starck is though… I don’t see very much reason for visible forms of design to continue at present. If design continues, my sense is that it has to become much more concerned with Hertzian space (see my forthcoming screed in A+U). 

          Does there have to be a collective form? Remember the anti-design movement of the 1970s, also running concurrent with an "unexpected" recession after a long boom? And even if I suggested that there’s all that Maker stuff out there, it’s not really design in the sense that most readers of this blog would accept. Frankly, and maybe it’s just me getting old (but I’m asking some of you and not getting much back!), but I don’t see "design culture" in the DIY world today. People making blogs (even uber hip blogs) generally hit the submit button on bldgblog or use movable type or whatever. There’s a general absence of the bottom-up today in terms of stuff that designers can mine. Skateboards, T-shirts, album covers, weird fashions? All those things seem to have evaporated. The Cool Hunt died long ago.

          And maybe this is the problem with design today… as the giant firehose that was the mainstream, that sublime object of desire for design, has splintered and fragmented into many diverse forces, it’s just no longer cool to be edgy, it’s no longer possible for design to cut new territory. See here, for example. 

          This isn’t to (necessarily) say that our collective professions evaporate, only to say that design had better stop seeming so precious and twee, and fast.

          1.  
             If you don’t agree with

             

             If you don’t agree with Starck then more examples would be a good idea. 

          2.  
             If you don’t agree with

             

             If you don’t agree with Starck then more examples would be a good idea. 

  3. it’s all very simple
    it’s all very simple:

    it’s not that design has died.

    everything is already dead.

    the internet, the media, airplanes, cellphones, international shipping, and ubiquitous networks have destroyed meaning forever.

    that’s right, you read that correctly. to put it another way: the vast sprawl of globalization has pre-empted the very possibility of a true unifying movement. nothing means anything anymore. the old gods are dead or dying. culture is a joke. people live for themselves, not for ideologies or movements.

    nihilism is here, and it’s not going anywhere… ever.

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