Utopia For Sale

The idea that good design matters seems so pervasive as to be a near-truism. One would be hard pressed to find materials – books, magazines, podcasts, et cetera – that do not bemoan a lack of good design. But what is meant by the term good design? Is it an objective term describing an object’s particular qualities, or is it a function of a user’s subjectivities? Enter the leagues of design experts, writers, and consultants willing to provide guidance and polemics. Consider, for example, a 2001 roundtable discussion from Wired called A Conversation About the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Featuring a diverse body of designers and thinkers, the piece appears as a series of infinitely quotable morsels that dissect previously held misconceptions about the value of design while at the same time offering a bit of prognostication tinged with some historical reflection. At one point, Paola Antonelli, a senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at New York%u2019s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), claims that People think that design is styling. Design is not style. It’s not about giving shape to the shell and not giving a damn about the guts. When compared along with everything else said during the discussion, this statement appears as a moment of untrammeled clarity, a provocation aimed to steer everyone away from a potentially meandering conversation about design. But it is also important to consider the rest of Antonelli’s quote, especially when she claims that ‘Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing’.

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Date added: 02/07/2011


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