Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bubble, Anyone?

paola antonelli, new york times, we make money not art, design, museums, museum of modern art, maria mortati The Paola Antonelli quote above was brought to me by Ron Davis, illustrious Principal here at Gyroscope. It's from an article in last Sunday's New York Times by Michael Cannell called "Design Loves a Depression". Mr. Cannell suggested that lean times equal less superfluous design which means better design. It's interesting... and lean. The the article and its design– the Eames chair positioned next to the Campana Brothers chair, and his website gave me the impression that he'd prefer all design to be mid-century minimalist (which I do enjoy). However, I believe the fantastic has a particularly useful role in design. It lifts us out of the every day, and gives us a sense of possibility. Which in these times, can be a very good thing. The problem hasn't been the overabundance of anti-utilitarian chairs, it's been the overabundance of cheap-but-nice-looking stuff. Mr. Cannell suggested that it's "the designer’s job to discourage consumers from regarding that $30 Ikea side table as a throwaway item." I'd regard it as permanent if it lasted longer, and I'd add to that and say it shouldn't be anyone's job to design a throwaway table. I bet the person that bought the Campana Brothers chair is not going to throw it away anytime soon-- or ever. As we continue to formalize our green practice with programs like the LEED certification, we find that it's not a "buy this over that" fix– it's an integrated approach to the entire project that makes things good and green. There are many designers who have been working long and hard to change design in this way. William McDonough + Co., who Mr. Cannell refers to, have been at it since 1981. It's only now that it's fashionable. While some in the mass-consumer design world have been creating a few too many transient objects, the museum world has had little in the way of excess. The impact of the economy on the museum industry has left many feeling that maybe a bubble is better. Especially if you're out of a job or closing down good public programs. Museums have always had to make more with less, with few exceptions. Tough time means that we will now work smarter... and harder.

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