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Postby John Warwicker » March 7th, 2004, 7:35 pm

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John Warwicker
 
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dear kurt, i agree with al that you say about the availability of nytimes.com. my simple question is 'do they actively read it online?' (if they do then american design students are certainly one up on their british counterparts vis-a-vis the 'quality' press') and as you can see from my last post i absolutely agree about the special and intimate position of the printed word and image. in no way am i trying to replace this but supplement it. you'll also notice that in my first post i intimated that my observations and thoughts were not directed at the u.s. alone. far from it. the question that paola put forward was 'are you satisfied with design coverage in the media?'. we all know that this, in general, depends on the article rather than the magazine, newspaper or book.

by the way, i don't think anyone has mentioned television yet. both the bbc and channel 4 here in the u.k. do a fair bit but the 'fine arts' are more generously covered and better written/produced.

my only point is that in my travels across the world, both working and lecturing, it is very apparent that there is a general lack of curiosity and mental experimentation as well as the 'what if' in making and a lack of desire to contextualise. however, when something is shown that is not prescriptive or programmatic the response has been fantastic. to much vertical not enough horizontal. specialisation in making is one thing, enriching one's practice with a curious and open mind is something else. it's always a question of open-ness.
and i feel that it is encumbant on all of us to suggest and provoke through whatever means we have at our disposal.

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Paola Antonelli
 
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Kurt, your narration of the days at Time reminds me of my days at Domus, when I was deemed too young and too girly to deal with something as SERIOUS as architecture and would therefore jump onto any kind of interstitial form of design I could find with all the enthusiasm in the world.
I would like to hear more of all of your true stories. From everybody, please.
Back to the topic of designers' public presence.
Yes, designers are peppering the pages of magazines, it is true. The problem is, the coverage steers toward the creation of a star system, rather than the celebration of good design. And once the designers are inducted, nothing can move them from the dais, not even the most hedious products.
What is the Pantheon right now in the United States? Which names does the public really know, in all forms of design except fashion and architecture? I’d say three: Philippe Starck, Michael Graves, and Karim Rashid. I have been told that that is the way things work in America, that you have to connect a topic to stars in order to make people pay attention.

Let me sum things up a bit

Postby Paola Antonelli » March 8th, 2004, 11:49 pm

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We have covered both very pragmatic--ad-pulling in retort--and very temperamental--a need for collation to accommodate the very nature of design--topics. Let me start some new topic threads, so that we can share examples and get more specific about some of the ideas we discussed.
Feel free to keep posting under this headline, if you feel that you have the urgency to do so, we can keep several going at the same time.

design in the media (again)

Postby Laurene Leon » March 9th, 2004, 11:20 am

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John W gets props for mentioning TV as a potentially powerful media venue for design. I recently became involved in a project to develop a "design show" for American cable TV, a 24/7, new arts and entertainment network, in the mode of Bravo (itself modeled on the old PBS.) In researching the history of the format (internationally) for an understanding of content + structural development, a friend in academia recommended I view BBC's "Signs of the Times" (developed by the British photographer Martin Parr in the 1980's), which dissapontingly enough, seemed to be the deadpan (albiet class concious common people) precursor of MTV's "Cribs."

On US design tv, as of this writing, citizens are either receipients of makeovers by "design experts" or proudly showing off their Bling (customized SUV's and Scarface Movie posters). It seems that entertainment value has replaced information, and that also circles back to Paola's comment about the star system being a major hook for dispensing design stories/information in the popular media in this country.

So why not Michael Graves perfoming a public service, and leveraging his profesional clout + public profile and dipensing information on TV? I bet more people would watch his design show than the one hosted by Courtney Cox Arquette.

It's also interesting to note of the several design stars that getting unrelenting media attention, as Paola mentioned, not one of them is female. This is not a reflection on the design community, but the myth of the heroic male artists that the popular media continues to perpetuate...

Postby Julie Lasky » March 9th, 2004, 6:55 pm

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Re the star system: I'm not in favor of promoting a handful of designers, but I believe in raising profiles. Designers have enough trouble fighting the nullifying demands of marketing departments and the bullying narratives of ad campaigns. They deserve credit for their ingenuity and they should be held accountable for their lapses. These stories are not just instructive for our audiences, they also happen to be compelling. People who read about people (and who read PEOPLE, apparently) are the happiest people in Barnes & Noble.

Then there's the style thing. Sure, a lot of designers (couturiers excluded) insist they have no style, but, rather, serve a project's particular demands. I've never bought that argument. Style may be as invisible to a practitioner as my mannerisms are to me, but unless the designer is an android, he or she has one. Pinpointing its characteristics, and the underlying philosophy, biography, or influences, helps to illuminate how design emanates from a single creative consciousness and how it evolves, buffeted by experience.

My question, then, is not whether designers should be household names, but why so few have that kind of recognition and how they've acquired it. (And how they maintain it against seemingly inevitable backlashes.) This may sound naive, since my magazine has done its share to elevate the stars, but we've also promoted many people who don't get a nod of recognition even from my MFA design students. That the lucky handful of celebrity product designers happens to be men doesn't surprise me. Regrettably, most product designers are men.

designer as messenger

Postby Laurene Leon » March 15th, 2004, 9:32 am

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A remedial issues in mass media design coverage is not the exstinguishing of a star system in the media, but point being, designers with "star power" being able to provide some illumination on this profession of ours to the general public.

It is not the sole responsibility of journalists, curators, retailers, manuafacturers, promoters and media commentators et al, who do a damn good job within their respective frameworks.

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