Friday, February 20, 2009

Depression is great for design, no, it's terrible, no, it's great!

Earlier I linked to the Icon magazine article from 2007 about how design needs a recession, which had elicited commentary online now that we've hit an actual recession. The New York Times jumped on the bandwagon and said that what design needs is indeed a depression, not just a recession. Murray Moss at Design Observer got mad and explained that the NYT writer was being a puritanistic dweeb, and it's not design's fault if everyone lost their marbles when everything was going good, and now designers are unemployed just like everyone else, and how is that good for design?

I reread my own post and recognized the very puritanical moralism that Design Observer pointed to. It seems like we have a really strong need to believe that now that life is more financially challenging, we will all become very Good and Worthy and only make and produce Worthwhile, Morally Superior Things. There is also a strong undercurrent of pure, old-fashioned envy in believing that designers and artists should live in poverty and suffer, because otherwise they might have some fun and start producing frivolous things which have no Deeper Meaning.

I wonder: doesn't art and design just hold a mirror to society? It's typical that we get mad at art and design when we don't like what we see in the mirror. What we want to see in the mirror now that our own irresponsible behavior got us in trouble, is someone Good and Worthwhile and Not Frivolous. Designers and artists had better start showing us that, or we will get really mad and start accusing them of nihilism and of destroying our very culture.

In the picturesthe Corallo and Vermelho armchairs, from Fernando and Humberto Campana, used as illustrations in the Design Observer and New York Times articles, respectively.

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