Sunday, August 24, 2008

Are we Anti-design?

This post is proud to have been syndicated to the Ponoko blog.

Thoreau Cabin

Anti-design, or Pro-design? Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond- Stephen Erat at TalkingTree [via Treehugger]

Martyn Perks writes at sp!ked about the phenomenon of 'anti-design', that is,

"Designers who focus on producing only meek and sustainable things ... denying their own creativity and impact on the world."

But then sp!ked describe their position as one of:

"waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms."

so perhaps their controversial stance is not surprising. It is one however that I must disagree with as it makes the sweeping assumption from the outset that to constrain ourselves when designing is somehow at odds with exercising our creativity: a gross error. Perks does not waver from this from this assumption, citing Philippe Starck's new green direction as a prime example:

"Starck’s wind turbine ... creates the illusion that the energy problem is one of consumption, not of production. We need bigger, better and dependable power stations (including nuclear ones), not small home generators."

Perks seems to be conveniently ignoring the fact that the world's problems are also our personal problems, and we all have a responsibility to take action to rectify them - I seriously doubt that Starck expects his home generators to solve the energy crisis, especially as his aim seems to be to raise awareness more than anything else. What's more, Perks sees green design as somehow less able to "make an impact", this being taken as the main aim of any design. I think most designers are more interested in solving problems, and if this means making an impact on society in a big way, so be it: sustainable design is no barrier to this. Surely the idea is to make an impact on the problem, anyway?

Perks' ultimate sentence really does take the biscuit however:

"Let the government, politicians and policymakers take the flak for the consequences of design, while leaving the designer with the job of recreating the world around us. The designer, while living in the real world, cannot be constrained by it, because it’s his or her job to make it better."

An astonishingly short sighted statement in my opinion but then I'll happily admit to being something of a misanthrope! Do read the whole article and make up your own mind.

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