January 14, 2008

Buy Design

The late, great, Tibor Kalman (1989, quoted in number 47 of Michael Bierut's Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design) on the role of Design and designers: "We're not here to help clients eradicate everything of visual interest from the face of the earth. We're here to make them think about what's dangerous and unpredictable. We're here to inject art into commerce. We're here to be bad."

That sounds more like a manifesto for selling Design to designers, for selling self-importance to the insecure, than a serious attempt to answer the Big Question. Face it Tibor, Design's for selling, for deflection, for distraction. Design is aesthetics and visual rhetoric in the service of sales — selling a product, an ideology, a state of mind, an idea, an individual's weltschmerz, a corporate image…. If a design's not tugging you by the cuffs and whispering (or screaming) "Buy! Buy! Buy!" in your ear, it's just not doing its job (or it's Art).

(Bierut's book's a lot of fun, and he gently rips into the rather fatuous Adbusters manifesto of some years back, but he's pleasingly elliptical about his own answer to the question, "What is design for?". He seems most engaged when discussing what we might call Heroic Design, i.e. design selling the idea of Design (to clients or to other designers); but that may be a little unfair).

(And Kalman's mini rant's actually an ironic breath of fresh air compared to Cheryl Towler Weese's recent muddled, earnest, and unintentionally funny Design Observer piece "Is Apple Soft On Crime?", a piece that's likely to pass into history as a classic of its type. Danger and unpredictability are all very well until it's by design, right?!).

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At 1/23/2008 8:41 am, Blogger Angela Natividad said...

Design:Sales as Steve Jobs:Apple

Oh Jimmy, you sound like Ogilvy.

At 1/23/2008 10:44 am, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

My goodness, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day…


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