interviews: do we hate design?


what do you think of design as it is portrayed today?

i think the true definition of design has been lost to a great extent. design today is assigned to so many practices. first off, the word “design” should differ from the word “decoration,” and “design” does not equal “art”. they are three distinct words and should represent three different disciplines, but unfortunately these terms have become interchangeable today. that is what is unfortunate.

why do you think these practices have become interchangeable?

i think partly because in the past decade, design, not unlike fashion or luxury, has become popularized and in demand by the less-knowledgeable mass public. it stems from the public’s appetite to own an attainable vuitton plastic key-chain, or affordable designer cups at target, or even faux luxury real estate. in the rush to supply this need, many things that have little to do with design, or luxury, and arguably even with fashion, have slipped through as the genuine article. so, a decorative item is passed off as design, and a design piece passed off as art. i think no artist represented the silliness of the times better than jeff koons, whom i love and hate simultaneously.

ok, so do you hate the word design?

again it’s complicated. i didn’t say i hate the word design, i just can’t agree to all that it stands for today. i love art. i love style, and neither are design. in general i don’t care for “decorators”, unless of course you are decorating your own house, and then that is yours to cherish. decoration, like “style,” is a subjective discipline. there is no public function to decoration, it’s an individual choice, like color. design however, has a function. a function to communicate.  a function to resolve a problem, and so on. can design look beautiful? now of course you first have to define beauty, but yes it can to some, and it should to some, but that is not its main goal.

moving forms around on a page is not design. maybe that’s style, or decoration, but more likely that is a mindless personal hobby in my opinion. unfortunately, that is what is being taught as design. being stylish does not make you a designer. a designer should be a frustrated engineer/scientist at heart and a linguist in the head… you can maybe call it intelligent design (and i’m not referring to the assumed creator of the universe).

intelligent design ? so is design a science?

no, not exactly, but when it’s done-well, it is as fascinating and complicated as science. today 99% of the time, style is simply passed off as design. it should be called what it is, style, and judged as that, and we should stop calling it design. this is why everyone thinks they can design. a pencil in hand (if you’re lucky), but more likely a mac in lap, and you are a designer. no wonder every account executive and company vp thinks they can direct a story or a shoot! it is because we have made it to be just that, a random point of view, a style, a beautiful piece, all subjective disciplines that are bound by nothingness and held by no conclusions. the industry in a way deserves what it gets… but unfortunately we’re stuck in the middle, and those “designers” make my life that much more difficult.

who is a great designer?

raymond loewy was a great one but, in our times, steve jobs. not apple. not jonathan ive, whom i do not particularly like, but steve jobs. he was just what i said; a frustrated engineer/scientist at heart, and a linguist in the head. he proclaimed what apple was and what apple became. apple’s greatest accomplishment was their streamline usability. we’ve termed that UI/UX but this is the core of any good design, from the stone-age tools man created to the space shuttle navigation. UI/UX are not the creation of the digital age, but a logic to understand our environment and no one in recent years was as rigorous about that as steve jobs. you may like the design of the original ipod or not, but you can not argue about its usability. what made apple great, was arguably its software, not its hardware. after steve jobs, apple will never be the same. and sorry to say this but, when steve passed and apple proclaimed that they are “bigger than one man,” they were very wrong. they are as big as the man, and that man is gone. finding another will not be impossible, but it will not be as easy as the executive-brass like to think. they may continue to grow but it will not be in the same path.

excerpts from an original interview with ucef hanjani, creative director and co-founder of ceft and company