Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lesson From Philippe Starck "Design Is Dead" Lesson From Hugh MacLeod "The Future Isn't"

Back at the end of last year Phillipe Starck took the TED stage to answer the question Why design? During that time he railed against the cynicism of Raymond Loewy in the '50s.

Now tells us that Philippe Starck says that design is dead...

Here is Jason Kottke's post from by back on March 28 of this year.

Philippe Starck says that design is dead and that he's retiring. Says Starck:
I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact. Everything I designed was unnecessary. I will definitely give up in two years' time. I want to do something else, but I don't know what yet. I want to find a new way of expressing myself is a dreadful form of expression. (link)

I am going to follow Seth Godin's advice and have an opinion. Sorry, but being ashamed of producing materiality seems to me to be pretentious. Deciding that you want to do something else that has more meaning for you, yes that I could find admirable, even deciding what you personally designed was unnecessary in regards to your designing it, but to decry design because it works with the elements of this world, well I am not ready to leave the material world just yet. There are more than enough opportunities to find meaningful purpose in designing for the other 80% who could use a bit more materiality.

Materiality is not the problem, it is limiting our vision of ourselves and our world to only materiality. Equally problematic is disdaining the material world.

On numerous occasions this weblog has turned to Seth Godin and Hugh MacLeod for insights. It is not the purpose of this weblog to market anything, yet I still find ideas in their writings that resonate with me, regardless whether or not that was their intention.

MacLeod's latest post, just picked up today, justifies again my labeling MacLeod as the world's most optimistic curmudgeon, with more emphasis perhaps on the curmudgeon. The post also sets a warning marker about being pretentious myself.

The latest source of optimistic inspiration is MacLeod's post on "the blue monster is the future of marketing" via gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" back in May of this year.

I am liberally paraphrasing MacLeod's post here for my own purposes, for his purposes go to his post.

MacLeod defines his Blue Monster as, a cartoon-based "Social Object" that me and my Microsoft buddy, Steve Clayton, unleashed on the good but unsuspecting folk at Microsoft.

I have been interested in the idea of the Social Object and how it fits into new marketing for some time. Not for marketing purposes, but how it defines how we interrelate with each other. It is too simplistic to take the position that it is just about making money. No doubt, if done well, it results in making money, but it is not at the heart of the gesture. The emphasis is on the social not the object.

5. My [MacLeod's] second big insight from this year was learning that, even with a fairly everyday product, you can create social objects simply by using your products to make social gestures.

Now the Blue Monster as a social object is arguably not material (sans pen, ink, paper), but other social objects promoted by MacLeod are. More importantly, they achieve something that perhaps Starck's designs did not, they take on a life of their own.

One of the reasons I haven't talked about it much lately, is simply because there is no longer the need. To paraphrase Steve, "It's already out there, it's already working its magic. It has a life of its own and it no longer needs us."

Perhaps Starck's designs practiced "Subversion as a marketing tool". Starck would not have called it "marketing", but whether it's marketing or telling stories or finding meaning, it can be counterproductive if not done with authenticity, especially if it comes from above, whether hierarchically or metaphorically.

Understanding the Blue Monster means understanding the need to be "bigger than yourself".

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