What happens when top designers are given the freedom to create whatever they want? Something weird and wonderful, says Sophie Lovell
The Independent, Saturday, 25 April 2009
What we need is obvious, says the great German industrial designer Dieter Rams: “Less but Better” – less junk, less pollution, less waste, fewer “things” altogether and in their place, better, more refined, essential tools for living. And of course he is right. So why do we need new chairs that we can’t sit on, conceptual artefacts that serve no obvious purpose and strange remixes and hybrids? In order to find new solutions designers need to experiment. Now, more than ever, they need to question every given, test every avenue and challenge all our preconceptions if they are to help find new ways of moving forward.
The realm of design, like many other disciplines, is now challenged to fulfil an increasing number of roles: to keep up with new materials; to facilitate our increasing technological dependence; to help make the world a better and more sustainable place, yet also balance all that out with the demand for the trophies of conspicuous consumption and an unquenchable desire for novelty.
Many designers think of themselves as explorers, testing the boundaries of materials, processes and mediums. They are committed to experimentation, and a growing band of gallerists, patrons and curators are nurturing these experiments in the form of one-offs, prototypes or limited editions. Thus the most fascinating innovations in design are now coming from an unexpected quarter: where it brushes against… the realm of art, and of conceptual art in particular. These pioneering individuals are asking some big questions. What is design? What does it mean to call oneself a designer? What are the roles of objects and products? If design is to provide so many solutions, where does it have to go to find new answers?