Only a design feature

January 16, 2009

October 27, 2008: If you looked at the Ten Greatest Designers in Britain feature in the Observer you’d be forgiven for thinking that design is principally the coercion of consumers into buying more stuff. OK, buying lovelier stuff. But unequivocally the handmaiden of consumersism. We all know it doesn’t make a great lifestyle feature in magazines, but what of design’s more metaphysical power? A designer’s ability to thwart consumerism by encouraging us to reason the very need for a product? Design’s ability to help us remember the experience without buying the souvenir. While we should give thanks for the 10% nod to the ability of design o breathe new life into something old which is represented quite gloriously by Stuart Haygarth; we need to advance the magazine discourse of design so that you can turn heroic deeds into a lifestyle feature. So it’s not a magazine, but we should certainly give thanks for Alice Rawsthorn’s Monday column in the International Herald Tribune which is a weekly intravenous feed of design seen in the large perspective of global business, society and technology. All this while at the same time making design seem smart and lifestyle-ey as well, just like magazines do, even in the August doldrums. 


Kazakhstan’s estimated 12,000 newly-minted millionaires can now be rewarded with a credit card that has an inlaid diamond and gold leaf details, gratifyingly gendered with a winged horse illustration for rich men and a peacock for rich women. The Observer reported: “The bank has said that the embedded diamond is only a ‘design feature’ to demonstrate the status of the customer”. Only a design feature. Harmless enough then, and no more than a signifier of wealth and status. Sigh.

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