The problem with the cult of new design

  • Design
  • April 20, 2017
  • David Trubridge
The problem with the cult of new design

Fashion and technology advances have created a consumer that's obsessed with the latest new and shiny goods to hit the shelves, but acclaimed New Zealand designer David Trubridge says there's no need apply this to design disciplines like furniture and lighting. Here, he argues why designers need to remember quality is better than novelty.

The sign at the entrance to the Salone del Mobile in Milan proclaimed “Be the first to see the latest”.  

Here is the clear intent that the world’s largest and most influential design fair is about novelty. And not just novelty for the sake of it, but also the implied judgement that you have to be up with it — that this edge over others gives you, the aficionado, some sense of social superiority. No mention of quality, that here you can see the best— quality now matters less than the novelty. The monstrous profligacy of these trade shows is built on such ephemera.

The cult of the new has come to dominate our consumer society, and my heels are ploughing furrows in the sand as I desperately try to resist. In an interview for an online magazine, I was recently asked, “Your catalogue has grown over the years but not as rapidly as most lighting manufacturers – why are you not creating more new work?” 

To which I replied, “I believe in quality, not quantity. I can’t bring myself to create a lot of new lights just for the sake of it. In fact, I have a real problem with this obsession with the new. It degrades what we already have. It is a deliberate consumer construct to get people to buy, where the need to sell is greater than the need to buy. I think we should start savouring and appreciating what we have a little more, rather than expecting designers and producers to constantly titillate us with something new. So much newness can only be inferior, often resorting to gimmickry in its desperate quest.”

A key phrase is, it degrades what we already have. I believe in the products that we have created—I like to think that they might become classics, still being appreciated in fifty years like George Nelson’s lights or Eames’ furniture. At least that is my intent, others can be the judge. If I come up with something that I think is as genuinely good, then I will happily add it to the collection. But I will not churn out new stuff just to feed the voracious consumer beast.

The problem with novelty is that it invariably sacrifices quality in its inexorable quest to be seen. Distracted from the real fundamentals of inspiring design, the desperate designer resorts to eye-catching gimmicks in order to be seen amidst the tumult of so many other, equally desperate, designers. There may well be excellent quality in the resolution and production, but the whole enterprise is built on shaky and very ephemeral design foundations.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t continue to push forward the edge of design, only that this edge is recognised through overall lasting quality, not novelty alone.

Some of the blame for this need to make last year’s idea look inferior must lie with the fashion industry. But more recently we have been beguiled by the massive forward strides of technology, bewitched by their persuasive advertising into lusting after the latest shiny new Apple gadget. There seems to be an unreachable itch in our psyche driving this unfulfillable quest. But there is no reason to apply the same criteria to furniture and lighting.

There are companies who do not heed the siren call of novelty, though you won’t often hear about them because the design press and bloggers will only write about something once, then move on.  While not entirely my personal taste, Vitsœ are a good example: “We have consistently stood up to a world that has favoured new over better.”  They have produced the same Dieter Rams furniture for over 50 years. You can still add parts to the shelves that you bought decades ago. This is supreme confidence in the lasting quality of their product.  The old is not deliberately made obsolescent to force you to buy the new.

So don’t heed all those seductive calls of the design hunter constantly trying to be the first to see the latest. You will never be satisfied, only ultimately disappointed, left searching vainly for more. Our planet is bursting at the seams with ‘stuff’ and it can’t manage the strain anymore.  Most of it we really don’t need, but there are a few genuinely and authentically good designs that will last — the real design ‘aficionado' is the one who can recognise that.

This story originally appeared on Idealog.

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

 

Kit and Ace pulls the plug on international stores

  • News
  • April 28, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
Kit and Ace pulls the plug on international stores

Canada-based technical apparel retailer Kit and Ace dipped its toes into the New Zealand market recently, opening a series of pop-ups followed by a store in Auckland’s Britomart, which closed at the start of this year. The brand has now abandoned its international strategy, however, announcing it will shutter stores outside Canada to focus on an ecommerce strategy instead.

Read more
 
 

World retail survey indicates now is a time for transformation

  • News
  • April 27, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
World retail survey indicates now is a time for transformation

Frequent technological upheavals have left retailers struggling with a need to constantly reinvent themselves, says global accounting firm PwC. It’s for this reason that the company has structured its 2017 Total Retail Survey around the investments retailers will need to make to remain competitive.

Read more
 
 

Shoe queen Kathryn Wilson shares a few of her favourite things

  • Design
  • April 27, 2017
  • Elly Strang
Shoe queen Kathryn Wilson shares a few of her favourite things

The Register's sister site Idealog is in the middle of celebrating Design Month. It's picked the brains of some of the most interesting individuals in the industry to find out their favourite design-related things, their not-so-secretive side hustles and what inspires them creatively. Here's shoe designer and retailer Kathryn Wilson.

Read more
 
topics
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
Sisterhood
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...
 
 
 

Retailer Ingrid Starnes shares a few of her favourite things

  • Design
  • April 26, 2017
  • Elly Strang
Retailer Ingrid Starnes shares a few of her favourite things

The Register's sister site Idealog is in the middle of celebrating Design Month. It's picked the brains of some of the most interesting individuals in the industry to find out their favourite design-related things, their not-so-secretive side hustles and what inspires them creatively. Here's fashion designer Ingrid Starnes.

Read more
 

Air New Zealand’s reputation has no weak spots

  • News
  • April 26, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
Air New Zealand’s reputation has no weak spots

The latest NZ Corporate Reputation Index has ranked our national carrier New Zealand’s most reputable company, with Toyota again coming in runner-up. This is the fourth year running that the two organisations have been in the top two.

Read more
 
Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise
The Register

editor@theregister.co.nz

Content marketing/advertising? Email marlene.coote@tangiblemedia.co.nz or call 09 358 7297 / 027 544 2298

View Media Kit

}