mieke gerritzen on Sun, 23 Dec 2001 05:57:06 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> design

By the year 2001 digital and technical development have lost their 
innocence. The experimental stage is over. Welcome to the world's first
digital recession.

Over the past decade the world has changed. Designers found new ways for
communication. Globalization succeeded. Everything is connected to
everything. We enjoy all this. It's beautiful! One planet, one network, one

We did it!

In the nineties we designers were supposed to shape this emerging digital
world. What an exciting period it was. Design became a booming business. A
very popular profession! Become a designer today and youıll be rich by

But the promise came with a warning: please, donıt be creative, donıt come
up with new ideas, because itıs not in our concept and business plan. Our
time and money is limited and our managers have everything under control! Do
your shockwave and flash but not disturb our speculations. Play around on
your computer but don't ask questions.

Maybe itıs all a matter of timing. It is now or never! Products, visions,
statements, politics, subcultures and everything what is possibly
interesting for the economy has to be transformed into a brand. There is
visual inflation. Consumers have to stay impressed. We want to be surprised
all the time, at least ones a day. Consequently there is a grotesque
turnover of concepts, designs and people. With everyone a designer you can
only be famous for five minutes.

We are not interested anymore in developing sustainable technologies and
products. That's way uncertain and much too expensive.  We want more money
to buy the same commodities and services again and again, presented with
new, even more exciting logoıs and styles to make us believe we are still

Design itself as such has become a style. The profession itself has turned
into a fashion. The more exclusive everything has to be, the more wide
spread the mass distribution of sameness and expensive uselessness has

Thatıs what designers do these days: restyling, restyling and restyling. So
please do not blame them, they are only designers. Instead of claiming
responsibility designers are being marginalised again to the old profession
of 'window dressers,' subordinated to the rules of Microsoft Windows.

In the meantime life is losing quality.

What does it mean to make a statement in the world of design these days? So
much is being designed.  We live in the age of over design. This leads us to
the design paradox. With an exponential increase in designed surfaces and
objects (both in the real and the mediated world) design as a profession and
discipline is stagnating.

For me this age of design globalization is hard to comprehend. The reason
for my misunderstanding is that Iım a designer who still respect
originality, passion and craziness. I encourage students to find and develop
their individual style. This is going contrary to the general trend in which
designers are required to work within into trend parameters of the day.

I could go on forever about the poor state of design in this world but maybe
I should tell you more about the positive side of being a designer.

Who are today's designers?

In the advertisement world but also in the broadcasting and new media
sectors we can see a hierarchy inside the design departments. There are
three level: the creative director on top, the art director and the designer
at the bottom. The designer is the one who is supposed to 'make' the things
others develop. He or she implementing the ideas and sketches in a style
defined by the others.

If Iım asking young designers or students these days what they would like to
do, they all say: work with concepts.  By the look of it creating image and
thinking them up and reflecting about them have became different worlds. Of
course, there are already enough styles developed in the past and you can
use them or mix them. Restyling remains an option but not the preferred one.

Yes. I do understand, itıs a lot of work and demands a lot of will to create
a new style or visual language. First you have to believe in your work and
develop a self-confidence about the things you are making. One has to take
ones self serious without become arrogant. If you remain impressed, happy
and interested in your own work after 7 or 8 years there will be a
breakthrough. Slowly others will start recognize your style and achievements
and people start asking you because of your style. As soon as you become a
brand there is a lot of freedom opening up to give meaning to the things you

Iım a designer because I want to change the world. But changing the world
actually has nothing to do with designing. It has to do with the
responsibility for how this world functions and looks like. But to be
honestŠ. I only became somebody who want to change the world after my design
style had developed for about 10 years.

One of the interesting aspects of design is that does not have to be visual
anymore. This is both a liberating and a dangerous tendency.

Increasingly politicians are designing rules. Managers and directors
designing bureaucracy. Its funny that a lot of these people are calling
themselves designers.  But why do they call themselves designers and not
creators or whatever? Thatıs because they want to pretend to have a brand.
They think they need to sell and market their work.

Design has become a magic word.

And the experience economy will be driven by more style and brand concepts.
More designers are needed whatever they used to do before. In the past only
graphic designers were making the logos and brands. But logos and brands
have become an industry in itself. Thatıs why designing as a profession lost
its meaning.

mieke gerritzen / nl.design
amsterdam / the netherlands
mobile: +31(0)654711506

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