Nº 281
Editorial:

Archives

Text: Stephan Ott

Translation: Iain Reynolds

Design

At the recent series of talks entitled It Takes Two to Boogie, which aimed to initiate a dialogue between the design world and the humanities, it became apparent just how hard it is for design experts to articulate a valid definition of design. They talk of styling, design thinking and of marketing logic. While that may all be tangentially relevant, it doesn’t go to the heart of the matter, unlike Herbert Malecki’s assertion from 1966, previously quoted in these pages, that design primarily “shapes relationships rather than things, relationships that need to be useful”. Combine this dictum with design’s close ties to mass production and you have a working definition that still holds today. The fact that design now involves shaping not just physical things, but also virtual or augmented realities doesn’t mean contemporary designers don’t face the same basic issue, namely the usefulness of relationships and how mass-produced goods can enhance it. Improving people’s well-being or that of other living things remains the aim, while the degree to which design contributes to that usefulness needs to be examined (self-) critically with regard to aspects such as sustainability, fairness, and social engagement.

 

Context

It may sound as dry as dust, but the subject of “Archive” is in fact anything but – as we illustrate here via various short texts and numerous current case studies. Indeed, it’s one that deserves particular attention in times in which marketing activity often serves as a surrogate for design work. The recent closure “for internal organisational reasons” of the German Design Council’s library, a library that is unique in this country, should therefore not go unnoticed. Since its establishment in 1953, the Design Council has always been a non-profit foundation and, given that one of the measures of democratisation is, according to Jacques Derrida, “participation in and access to the archive”, we should keep an eye on whether this self-described unrivalled repository of “over 18,000 printed books, films, DVDs and CD-ROMS and around international journals” does indeed reopen to the public as scheduled in early summer 2019.

 

 

Situation

Even (or perhaps particularly) in this age of digital search engines, archives, libraries, and collections are vital places of documentation and cultural identity. If you wanted, for instance, to seek out further sources on the subject of Victor Papanek, or mid-century modernism, Hans-Rudolf Lutz or the HfG Ulm, you could go to the German Design Council library and doubtless discover extensive material on each.

Lastly, news of some recent personnel changes in our editorial team: Eva Artinger is heading back to her native Bavaria and Susanne Heinlein is off to pastures new after four very fruitful years at form; Charlotte Könenkamp, Jonas Rehm, and Katharina Zemljanskij, meanwhile, have all joined the team. We look forward to forging productive relationships and to benefitting from their input and ideas.

 

Stephan Ott, Editor-in-Chief

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Nº 283
The Power of Design

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