Beyond the New

A search for ideals in Design

May 2015

“Design is flourishing. The number of design events is growing every year. But the field has not benefited. What most events have in common are the presentations of a depressing cornucopia of pointless products, commercial hype around presumed innovations, and empty rhetoric. As a mere commercial hype, the ‘new’ no longer equals real innovation, and might even be rephrased as ‘the illusion of the new’. Design has become a goal instead of a means to an end.” Designer Hella Jongerius and theorist Louise Schouwenberg have written a manifesto in which they plead to breathe new life into the Bauhaus ideals: making the highest possible quality accessible to many people.

• It’s time to once again interweave cultural awareness, social engagement, and economic returns.
Beyond the New: illustration

• The special status of designers being in-between users and producers gives them the opportunity to take the lead in a much-needed change of mentality.

• Count the blessings of industry. Industrial processes have greater potential than the low-volume production of exclusive designs, which reach such a limited market that any talk of ‘users’ can hardly be taken seriously.

• It is absurd and arrogant to begin the design process with an empty piece of paper. Cultural and historical awareness are woven into the DNA of any worthwhile product.

• Design is not about products. Design is about relationships.

• Aesthetic value is a potent means of communication. Ugliness is also a potent means of communication.

• Know the companies that share your moral and aesthetic values. Know the others too.

• By addressing the afterlife of every product, designers contribute to a change of mentality in both users and producers.

• The gap between higher ideals – which can be detected in many design students – and industry is too large.

• Terms like ‘authenticity’ and ‘sustainability’ become empty verbiage when the hidden agenda is still, as usual, economic returns.

• Without play, there can be no design that inspires the user. Without foolishness and fun, there can be no imagination.

• Good design equals research. Design requires the constant search for new idioms, a battle against presuppositions, a pushing of the limits, and the continual refinement of responses to fundamental questions like What can design add to the world of plenty? and What is functionality in the here and now?

Hella Jongerius studied Industrial Design at Design Academy Eindhoven and came to prominence very soon after graduating, with a series of her designs being produced by Dutch design collective Droog. She works for clients, including KLM, Vitra, Danskina, Maharam, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, Artek and Nymphenburg, and has pieces in the collections of MoMA New York, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Design Museum London, and many others.

Louise Schouwenberg is a Dutch researcher, writer, lecturer, and a curator of exhibitions on the cutting edge of art and design. She writes for a range of international art and design magazines and websites, and has contributed to various books, including Panorama, a publication on designer Konstantin Grcic (Vitra Design Museum, 2014), a monograph on artist Robert Zandvliet (Nai Publishers, 2012), and two monographs on designer Hella Jongerius (Phaidon Press, 2010 and 2003). Since 2010, she has headed the Master’s department in Contextual Design at Design Academy Eindhoven. 

An extended version of this manifesto, supported by Design Academy Eindhoven, Design Indaba, and Z33, is available here

Hella Jongerius & Louise Schouwenberg
This article appeared in DAM50. Order your personal copy.