The inevitable result of our sudden dive into recession and the endless talk of cuts, deficit and depression is the call for designers to stop fooling around and get back to the business of helping people live more efficient lives by creating purely functional products that do just what you expect them to do, preferably using as few materials as possible for the lowest possible price. No frivolity, no fancy functions and no fun. This is the antithesis of the expressive and expansive attitude that dominated design and architecture in the noughties where newness was a necessity – whether it was adding more functions to electronics than anyone could possibly know what to do with or generating new forms and adding superfluous decoration just because we could.
Those days are behind us now and we can expect our cultural landscape to become far more relaxed, slow paced and focused on making the most out of what we have – in terms of resources, time and experience. This sense-led approach was the intended purpose of Design Real – the Konstantin Grcic curated exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. Meanwhile, the Design Museum recently featured a double bill of retrospectives: David Chipperfield and Dieter Rams (two of the most restrained yet brilliant creatives from the past fifty years) as well as an exhibition extolling the virtues of ergonomics in design. It’s clear that the cultural elite who set the agenda that the mass market follows are already focusing on the return of the sorts of principles that governed “good design” in the post-war era: mass production, affordability and universal availability.
So, expect simple products with stripped-back functionality designed for ease of use and longevity. Expect crisp, clean forms with exposed detailing in raw materials and neutral colours. Expect to be hearing a lot more from the likes of Naoto Fukasawa, Jasper Morrison, Sam Hecht, John Pawson, Thomas Heatherwick, Peter Zumthor and Tadao Ando and expect the prevailing ideology for the next few years to be focused on rationality, value, longevity and sense.
Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of good design:
Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible