Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video Rob Walker, part of Objectified.
- Before there was kind of a popular notion of good design, as it's defined today, you can read things about, sort of, design as a, there's a book called "The Tastemakers" from like the 50s, and the author refers to industrial designers as Taste Appeal Artists, and, designers today, and that's such an insulting, sort of like, and he's being insulting, I mean that's his goal is to sort of just dismiss these people, like, all you're doing is adding the fins to the Cadillac or whatever, the planned obsolescence to just, to sort of pure form elements that will sell this year's model, that will be a novelty, that will get attention, have shelf appeal, pop, as they say.
And that's all you're doing. Now, designers today resist that, they don't want that, and that's why they'll always sort of correct you and say, "What I do isn't about style, "it's about function, style is just one element of it." It is just one element of it, but it is, to this day, remains a crucial element. There aren't many examples you can point to of, well this is something that is venerated by the design world and is a successful product and is very functional, but also is ugly.
There aren't that many examples of that. Style is built into the definition of good design, and, you know, I mean, frankly, the problem is that the design world of both critics and designers, who like to talk about it, is they've let that word "design," and that phrase "good design" become way too amorphous, and it's as if you were just going to talk about writing, and say, and have that, well, writing is important, writing is, writing matters.
Well sure, writing matters, but what are you talking about? Are you talking about William Faulkner? Are you talking about, you know, The Star? Because, you know, those are both writing, but you've thrown the term so wide that you're sort of talking about nothing, and it becomes, and that's, and then you get mad when people get, when people say, when people use the term "design" in kind of a loose, all-encompassing way. Well, you know, you've kind of let that happen.
In some ways, a lot of the failings of car companies, over time, has been not that they've ignored consumers or that they've tried to impose their will on consumers, but that they've been almost too responsive to certain things that consumers seem to demand, design things. Because if design is not just how it looks but how it works, an interesting question is, Well why are so many SUVs four-wheel drive, you know, four-wheel drive capable when there's no compelling reason for that to be the case? And the answer is that their research showed that consumers really wanted four-wheel drive SUVs to drive around the suburbs in.
That wasn't something that the car companies, that wasn't a design decision that was imposed on consumers. That was a design decision that was imposed on car companies by consumers. And, throughout the history of sort of the relationship between auto design and the marketplace, it's a dynamic, it's a dialogue type relationship. It's a back-and-forth relationship. If there was something that I thought should be redesigned or that designers should take a look at, or that I wonder, I guess is how I would put it.
I wonder why this lousy manifestation of design continues to exist, it wouldn't necessarily be any particular object, but it would be something that I think we're all familiar with, which is really, sort of, packaging and shipping materials and all the waste that seems to be attendant in those things. When you got the box from the online retailer and it's, you've ordered a book, and it's mostly a box of air and a bunch of plastic packing things, and, or you go to the store to buy a tiny USB flash drive and it's in a big, impossible-to-open clamshell package that you then, you've got this big pile of plastic shards and you're not supposed to, and then you feel sort of guilty like, do I throw this away? Or should I recycle this? And it just seems like such a bunch of waste, and it's hard to believe, and I sort of understand those systemic reasons why that's still around, and one of them is that there's not, it's not, that's not an easy problem for the marketplace to solve.
It is a problem, though, and it is a design problem, so, you would love to see some kind of solution introduced into that because it just seems to be, it's a waste and it's just so frustrating as a day-to-day consumer, that's something you have to either, you either confront it and you're sort of bummed out or you just put it out of your mind, which I think is what most of us do most of the time.
Objectified is a documentary about industrial design; it's about the manufactured objects we surround ourselves with, and the people who make them. Gary Hustwit, the director of Helvetica, talks with Dieter Rams, Marc Newson, Jonathan Ive, and other renowned designers behind some of the world's most iconic products. lynda.com is proud to offer this film to our members, along with over one hour of online-exclusive bonus movies.