Design Speak > The landfills of wants and desires.
We, the urban elite, are today much more aware of the term ‘design’ than we were twenty years ago. In olden times, objects were attached to the expectation of value. Today it is foremost the accumulation of style, the act of surrounding the world around us with beautiful things. And that is the new meaning of value for us, an imperceptible cloud of wants.
The designer has taken on a hallowed role, more akin to an artist, and the profession is generating a tornado of importance around itself. The word Design, as journalist Rob Walker says in Objectified, has become amorphous with good design. He adds, that’s like saying writing is good. But the real question is, what are you trying to say?
Designers want to be immortalised by what they design, they would love for us to use their product all our lives. But at the same time, they design things that attract and hence make us want more by replacing what we already have. Thus creating the need to always have the next beautiful/cool thing. How many chairs and toys and gadgets will it take for us to finally realise that the fickle thing about cool is that there is always something cooler around the corner.
If we jotted down every object we interacted with, from the time we wake till we sleep, what would that number be? Designer Karim Rashid says over 600. If we look closely at all the things, what is their real value for us? The debate on good design or bad design is unfortunately more often an aesthetic query first. Perhaps we should also ask, is it necessary design? Does the world really need it? Where and how will it end up after it has served its time? The earth is a fantastic piece of design. And we have never been able to replicate anything as cheap, sustainable, self-sustaining, creative or full of life than it. It has gifted us life, and we return the favour with junk and now, beautiful junk.
I remember reading about a girl, who when she found a beautiful object she desired, instead of buying it, took a picture of it and put it in a scrap book. At the end of the year, she had a lovely collection, and found that many of the things she simply had to have, she didn’t miss at all. A beautiful thing is a joy to see, our eyes are attracted to it, we like being in the proximity of it. But at what point did it become essential for us to own it, have it, make it our own. What does owning a designed thing mean to this? What does it say about us?
Designers Dunne and Raby talk of how they feel more satisfied at having their design exhibited at MOMA where more people have a chance to interact and see it than to have it mass-produced. Perhaps there is much wisdom there. One of the biggest challenges to living sustainably in the world today is the self-serving circle of consumerism – the designer’s desire to constantly create and our constant need for something new.
Since the advent of time, ordinary people have shown creativity in hacking/recycling design to better suit their needs. Because a lot of products/machines/processes were designed to work with as made, not necessarily made to be worked with. Post WWII, ergonomics and human factor engineering paved the way decades later for Human Factor Design – design based on the understanding of human beings; design that enhances life, makes interaction easy. Thus, it is still about creating more products, just ones that suit us better than the last ones we had. But perhaps the study of the human factor is one that is deeper – it is of our invasive, want-all nature.
Today, more than any other time in the history of Design, there is much talk of sustainability. Ironically, to be truly sustainable, perhaps most designers need to stop creating more. We are at a juncture where we are seeing it all pile up – the landfills of wants is on display, and collectively, it is neither cool nor beautiful.
Filed under: Design Criticism | 6 Comments
Tags: Design, Desire, Want