A few weeks back I read an interview from the weekly German newspaper Die Zeit with french designer Philippe Starck. I don’t normally make it a habit to read weekly German newspapers. I prefer the bi-weekly ones much better. You know, more objectivity, less fluff.
Starck is a superstar designer, if you will. A design celebrity. Kind of like a Britney Spears of the design world. Just with a beard and a little less crazy. He’s designed countless products and interiors…everything from toothbrushes to hotels and restaurants around the world. In the 1990’s he began championing product longevity as part of his design process. He’s said that a designer’s role is to create more happiness with less. A nice thought.
In this interview Starck said that in two years he’s retiring from design. He’s reached a point in his life where he looks back to the objects he has produced over the past 20 years and has come to the conclusion that he has done nothing but contribute to materialism. “Everything I have created is absolutely unnecessary”
He went on to say that “design is really a terrible way to express oneself.”
The design community took a collective gasp and everyone started lining up to take sides, preparing for the battle of words that would soon commence on every design blog out there. I imagine it was like that scene in Braveheart where Mel Gibson gives the speech to his soldiers, preparing them for battle. Except this time everyone kept their kilts on.
Of course, it didn’t help that many of the English language blogs were reacting to a poorly translated version of the interview, taking many of his thoughts out of context. So, with that said, I don’t really want to get into the “what’s his problem?” or “how dare he say that!” discussion. What mainly interested me was this idea of quitting design.
My first reaction: Is this even possible? Can someone who has spent his entire career, living and breathing design, just pick a date to stop? I don’t flip a design switch on from 9-5 and shut if off again when I go home. I think most designers are the same. It’s 24 hours. My wife can tell you: its not easy being married to a designer. We’re damn opinionated on just about everything. She’ll tell you of the arguments we’ve had at Target over why we have to spend $5 more for one can opener over another. Because one is not well designed, of course. Or maybe about the times we’ve bought the expensive dish detergent just because I liked the shape of the bottle. Not to mention the beautiful typography on it.
I guess at this point I’d like to know what you think. If you’re a designer, could you just stop designing? Do you think that in 20 years you will look back on what you have created and wish you would have done something different with your life? Maybe contributed to society in a different way?
If you’re not a designer, what does design mean to you? How important is it?
Does design factor in to your decisions to buy something or are there more important things? What about exhibitions or programs here at the IMA? Would you still come see an exhibition even if you weren’t too impressed with the design you’ve seen for it? How does design influence you as a non-designer?
Filed under: Design