Design is …

I have spent the better part of the past two months in provocation – is design about designing really expensive things for rich people. The simple answer is yes – and the fact that we have a class of product called ‘designer goods’ attests to the fact that a category of overpriced goods exists. The main aim of this category for the marketing department is to have a line of products with big margins and small volumes. These products are to be sold through endorsements in design schools and museums. Alessi is a classic example of a manufacturing enterprise that used the route of the profession and the museums to locate its product.

Years ago I bought a Starck Juicy Salif in Amsterdam. In 1994 a friend gifted us the Alessi whisteling Kettle. So we have tow objects that are now less objects but more icons of postmodernism of the 1980s. In my time I have oggled at the Tizio lamp.

What does this prove – that I am a consumer of design obejcts? Possibly.

I said last week that in 1994 I made a promise to myself that I will not design objects or products. I have since worked almost exclusively in visualizing projects for social change – projects that to be successful had to prove their commercial viability. Each project thus had three stages:

A ‘design stage’ of visualizing the project

A ‘pilot stage’ of implementing the project in a limited fashion to test and prove its viability

A ‘commercialization stage of rolling out a large scale product service system

Each of these projects took the better part of five years to implement and complete. It proved to me the viability of a ideological position where I could have visions of an improved world and then go about making it happen. This for me was design – making things better.

A long time ago making a good looking product also could have been justified as having made a difference. But that does not satisfy me anymore. It would be escapism for me. I will try to respect others who do this – but cannot do it myself.


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