eduardo on Sat, 29 Dec 2001 23:17:15 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re: design/the old year


I have been following the thread, and it seems that there are a couple of
things that should be noted about design.

First, we should realize how it came to be developed.  The first designers
were artists who saw in mass produced material the potential to touch people
in ways that were inconceiveable up to their time.  We are looking at the
turn of the 20th Century at this point.  This is the time of the dadaists,
futurists, surrealists, and constructivists.

Early designers were not called designers at first.  Most of them came from
architecture, art or other creative fields.  The Bauhaus was formed by artists,
such as Joseph Albers and Kandinsky among many many others.  The idea of
a designer as it is considered today did not exist then.  This concept came
to be concretely defined around the 1950s.

All of these early practitioners had a passion for culture and society at
large. They saw in design a socialist progress.  This myth of "progress"
is what has been floating around the messages about design on nettime up
to this point.

The second point we should note is that Capitalism was not fully developed
at that time to the point that it is today.  Socialism was big in Europe.
 Many designers in Europe had socialist principles strongly grounded on
Marxism.  Many designers saw themselves as activists in a progressive movement
towards a better tomorrow -- and this did not necessarily mean communism.

The third point is that now it is a very different ball game. Capitalism
is much more developed.  Cynicism has kicked in, no one necessarily believes
in progress at least in the way the early designers did. Design now is a
profession -- a business.  And we should keep this in mind.  There is nothing
wrong with business, the best we can do is be aware of the position of that

There are other ways to deal with the frustration of mass consumerism, but
placing hopes in design based on a progressive myth that is no longer functional
will not lead to much of anything other than tautological cynicism.

It is not constructive to start saying this is better than that, or that
form comes before function, or function before form.  This is futile.  What
we need to consider today is how we can collaborate in ways that can still
give us hope.  But we need to realize that the myth of progress, at least
as defined in the early 20th Century is no longer functional today.  Design
can be redefined -- and it must be -- but this must happen with an understanding
of its history.  We are in a crucial time. The internet is what printed
material and photography was to the designers of the early twentieth century.
 We must redefine and not complain, let's do it -- by understanding our
history.  Let's not live on Myths.

Eduardo Navas

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