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Chasing the Perfect part 2

In the earlier thread about Natalia Ilyin’s book Chasing the Perfect we discussed the main theme of Modernism and its discontents. I’m afraid that Modernism is a difficult subject in a class where people can be carefully questioned about what they mean. In an open and casual forum like this it may be hopeless to sort much out.

The book is, as the title suggests, about perfection and standards. The stories of Jazz musicians focus on the questions of perfection and standards. How are they related? Can you have one without the other? Do we have standards we haven’t inherited—standards of our own—or are standards imposed from outside? How do you know something is good? If the answer is “I like it” or something about your gut, should anyone else care? Do we share standards or just sometimes bump into others who buy into our personal preferences (and decide that these people, unlike everyone else, must be smart and interesting)? Do aesthetic standards need to be tied to another, perhaps greater philosophical consideration (like industrialized progress for the Modernists) or can they stand on their own?

What about the relationship between good and different? Is being at the cutting edge or fomenting a revolution good or bad in and of itself? Does good go stale, requiring the new to redeem whatever is worthwhile in it? Are some thing eternal or are people self-centered enough that they just like to think that?

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ARCHIVE ID 2767 FILED UNDER Book Club
PUBLISHED ON Aug.15.2006 BY Gunnar Swanson
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Comments
Darrel’s comment is:

I'd need at least 4 beers before being able to say anything in response to these questions. ;o)

On Aug.15.2006 at 02:24 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Darrel,

If you’re up for the drive from Minnesota to North Carolina, I’ll buy. In the mean time, have one beer and try to answer part of one of the questions.

On Aug.15.2006 at 04:43 PM
Ricardo’s comment is:

Hey Gunnar,

These are all great questions! Wish I had the book and was reading it along with everyone else who has posted so far... I'm on my second beer though, so I'll have to think a bit about all of this. ;-D

On Aug.15.2006 at 09:58 PM
Michelle French’s comment is:

Hi, I'm Michelle and I can draw. I'm a recovering methodological modernist.

I finished reading the book at lunch. I thought I would just read a few more pages this morning while waiting for new text from a client and read the whole book. While I need more time (or in agreement with Darrel, beer) to digest and re-read (a few times), I am delighted.

Last year I had a running discussion (argument) with a young freelancer over the existence of perfection and what that meant in design and art. I enjoyed Natallia's comparison of design orthodoxy with theology.

Jazz terrifies my mother, a former piano teacher. She could play anything on a page, with a specified meter, but couldn't improvise if her life depended on it. My ex-husband tried to play jazz, but had no "soul" (literally or metaphorically). The linear thinking that made him a good CPA, did not bring forth great tunes.

Is this what modernism did to us? What are we missing out on when we adhere to our grids? Are we imprisoned by 100-year-old ideals meant to free us from fear?

Gunnar, thanks for the discussion. I need to take more lessons from jazz. Go with the flow, improvise, and bring the gut expressions of my painting to my practice of design.


The text from my client still isn't here, it is late and now I'm going for a beer, as well.

On Aug.15.2006 at 10:49 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Sometimes, I like to stare. I'll just look at a picture, or a word, or "stare" in another sense by thinking about a sound, and I won't stop. I'll wrap my mouth around it, break it into two pieces, and then break each piece exponentially on top of the other, infinitely. It's obsessive (meditative just sounds too...elite). I'm sure you've all done this yourself, perhaps you were just doing it and came to this site.

So we all know what happens when you obsess over a word like, I dunno..."speaker." Pretty soon you disavow the word of the immediate visuals that come to mind, the dictionary definition, and you're left with the word essentially meaning nothing.

Of course this is nothing new; Warhol stated that if you looked at something too long it just lost all meaning. As commercial practitioners we know it all too well, how continual exposure to the same thing yields pretty boring wallpaper.

I'm not sure this is an appropriate response. It's just what came to mind after reading the questions. I'll be thinking about this for longer than the next few minutes though.

On Aug.16.2006 at 12:32 PM
Eric Heiman’s comment is:

I'm getting to this discussion a little late in the game, and having only read the book once about a month or so ago, my grip on its specifics has loosened a bit.

I really loved this book, mostly because it achieves what so little design writing out there ever does—it actually connects the rarified design practice/education we have all been indoctrinated with (whether we like it or not) to real, everyday life. I was struck less by its specific critical outlook on Modernist design, that I was simply on its sensitive take on how our everyday practice of design colors our day to day existence. The book was like a slap in the face. Design may have enriched my life by allowing me to make things, gave me goals to aspire to, and yielded tangible results to all my toils that are more than just financial, but it also made me realize, SHIT, design makes me an insufferable heel, a difficult grump; it often makes everyday life MORE difficult to navigate; and it may actually IMPEDE my happiness as much as it fosters it. I find myself full of self-loathing after design conferences, thinking, "Is this all we have to talk about?"

Natalia's book, if anything, might make us question more these tenets of not only Modernist design, but of Modern LIFE. This is the wonderful gift Natalia's book gives us. The specifics about design practice, styles, movements, and philosophy seem, much like design itself, just a vehicle in which to tell a bigger story. Great literature makes us look in the mirror and question our lives. I think Natalia's book (however slight—I call it "spare"—some of the previous posters may have found it) does this. Call it the "A Moveable Feast" of design writing, perhaps.

On Aug.16.2006 at 01:45 PM
Joshua’s comment is:

what's the point of designing?

On Aug.17.2006 at 05:42 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Joshua,

One of the problems with the [what’s the word? “Spare” in a different sense than Eric uses it; McLuhan might have said cool to the point of frigidity] extremely low context medium of screen-based text conversation is that it can be hard to know what is being said. Your question could be a smart-assed dismissal, an obscure rhetorical question, a suicide note, or a very open-ended actual question. Do you want to elaborate a bit and give people a chance to know what/how to answer?

On Aug.17.2006 at 09:14 AM
Shane Guymon’s comment is:

I guess this is implying that everyone should like Jazz music?

I however would definetly agree that there is some specific standards, or fundamentals of design that should be adheared to. I would compare that to sports, which I am much much more familiar with. So anyways without a foundation in the fundamentals you will never be as successful, nor as good as you could be.

Take for instance the sudden movement with the "And 1 mix tape tour" where they have a group of guys travel around the United States visiting several cities. when they play they draw a large crowd of people, and have a rather large following, where they pollute the hardwood, and parks with their "No Rules" apply basketball, where it is chaotic, and "unreal."

Is their a following? Yes
Do they make money? Yes
Is that not success? hmmmm.

Well I suppose the real question is, what is success, is success dependant on acceptance, and money.

So let's ask this, are they the best basketball players in the world? NO!!!!!!

Infact in many of the cities they play in, the team getting paid to travel doesn't even win.

None of them have ever came close to making it on an NBA or proffessioanl team.

I guess they can be compared to graffitti artist, where they have a following, and a fan base, but rarly adhear to any rules, standards, or fundamentals....

I don't know justa few thoughts....

On Aug.17.2006 at 09:47 AM
Shane Guymon’s comment is:

I want to be one of the greatest designers in the world.

On Aug.17.2006 at 09:50 AM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

Gunnar,

There are so many questions raised in Part 2!
Is there a central issue in which you'd like the
most focus on? Otherwise to address each question
can be exhausting (for me).

On Aug.17.2006 at 10:09 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Frank,

For me the important themes of the book are:

1) What did the Modernists get right? That could be rephrased as: What should we learn from Modernism? (I assume the best way to answer this is by considering the context and asking how “the Bauhaus boys” and others’ views can be repurposed for our current context.)

2) What did the Modernists get wrong or what became wrong? That could be rephrased as: What should we unlearn that we’ve learned from Modernism? (I assume the best way to answer this is by considering the context and asking how “the Bauhaus boys” and others’ views no longer apply and what was bullshit to start with.

I don’t know whether we got as far as we are going to get with those in part 1.1.

In part 2 (this one) I tried to move us along by getting at an interesting dichotomy of Modernism—a lionizing of the new with a simultaneous belief that their new was the only new we ever needed. (cf. The 80 year old Fidel still talking about “the revolution” or the Republicans still running against “the established elite.”)

The other thing I was hoping we’d address is the other side of Natalia’s claim that Modernist quest for perfection was dehumanizing. Is that just Modernism or does it apply to any quest for perfection? Is a quest for excellence the same as a quest for perfection in this regard? Is “humanity” just a euphemism for crap?

On Aug.17.2006 at 05:44 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

Gunnar,

I’m coming to class late, and without having done the required reading. (So, as the joke goes, instead of just sitting here silently and letting you think I’m stupid, I’ll open my mouth and remove all doubt.)

The other thing I was hoping we’d address is the other side of Natalia’s claim that Modernist quest for perfection was dehumanizing.

Not knowing the context of Natalie’s claim, I may be coming at this wrong. But..

I do know that some strains of Modernism wished to eliminate emotion (sentimentality!) and decoration (bourgeois excess!) from design in their pursuit of perfection, and to elevate the status of the machine. Granted, there was plenty of social and political baggage that went along with emotions and decoration as they related to design in their day. But the complete elimination of those, in pursuit of perfection, was highly problematic and -- I’d agree -- dehumanizing.

Machines and computers respond to pure logic, reason, and science. But for humans -- logic, reason, and science are only part of what makes us -- well, human.

Is that just Modernism or does it apply to any quest for perfection? Is a quest for excellence the same as a quest for perfection in this regard? Is “humanity” just a euphemism for crap?

I believe the quest for excellence is a very human endeavor, relating to our dreams and aspirations.

But “perfection” may be a slightly different matter.

First of all, what is the definition of “perfect” that we’re operating with here? At one time, “perfect” in an object might have meant “with no flaws or deviations”. Well, machines can create that type of perfect..much more than hand-craftsmanship can. “Perfect” in an image might have meant “completely lifelike”. Photographs can accomplish that easier than any painting. But as machines and computers gradually accomplish standards of perfection, we seem to discover that it’s still not, well, exactly perfect. We pry open the treasure box of machine-made perfection, only to discover that there’s another box inside waiting to be opened.

If Modernism’s pursuit of perfection was flawed, it was not recognizing that the machine-made world was an incomplete understanding of perfection.

On Aug.18.2006 at 11:04 AM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

In part 2 (this one) I tried to move us along by getting at an interesting dichotomy of Modernism—a lionizing of the new with a simultaneous belief that their new was the only new we ever needed. (cf. The 80 year old Fidel still talking about “the revolution” or the Republicans still running against “the established elite.”)

Like you said, Modernists lionized the new, but only if it was their "new". When their movement started to wane, they were inflexible and critical of other new developments both philosophically and aesthetically. Because of this, Modernism cannot be considered a fluid movement; a true timeless philosophy of the people. We love the idealism, the honesty, the rationality, but it never took into the account of reality, more specifically the reality of the human animal – the emotion, the silly, and most important the irrational. Post modernism added these flavors back into our lexicon, call it Modernism 3.0.

The other thing I was hoping we’d address is the other side of Natalia’s claim that Modernist quest for perfection was dehumanizing. Is that just Modernism or does it apply to any quest for perfection? Is a quest for excellence the same as a quest for perfection in this regard? Is “humanity” just a euphemism for crap?

I always thought the Modernist quest for progress through rationality, of science and technology was the dehumanizing factor. I think the quest for perfection is transcendent of any particular trade or industry; isn't it a quest to get as close as possible to god(s)? Because we can never be perfect, trying to do so, is a human quality. In fact, I'd say "humanity" is an euphemism for "striving".

On Aug.18.2006 at 11:37 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

I think that perhaps the first Modernists believed that they had the logical answer to the post-WW1 world. Stripped of Victorian sentimentality and hypocracy, but still shell-shocked at the brutality of modern warfare, they imagined that if they redesigned the world they could refashion society.
So-called perfection, stripped down to beautiful essentials was supposed to free the world but became a prison instead. That was the big lie. While every age has had its heroes and monsters, Modernism made the transition faster and streamlined. The 20th Century for all its technical marvels had unprecedented war, enslavement and death. I don't blame machines either. But the belief that a controlled uniform population is essential for their utopia.
Their "quest for machine perfection" was more than just incomplete. It became a devouring meme hoping to stay alive beyond it's lifespan by cannibalizing everything as Post-Modernism. As we crossed the threshold into a new century, the cracks in Modernism were already showing.

Just check your wallet and look at your credit cards. Your life is a series of numbers now. There's Modernist identity for you.

When I am back in New Orleans and I see all the stark white FEMA trailers all in a row, I think of Modernism. I am a FEMA number too. You have to drive thru some of these neighborhoods to see what a lack of perfection looks like. One year later and it looks like America had it's "Oprah Moment" and went back to the rat race. Where's all the social concern? Where's this well-designed future they talk about?

Gunnar, its a false assumption to think that the alternative is faulty craftsmanship and a crappy little world of low expectations. The alternative is a more humane solution of choices and flexibility - aided by machines, but not run by them. Which is why I liked Natalia's book. It has soul.

On Aug.18.2006 at 12:24 PM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

its a false assumption to think that the alternative is faulty craftsmanship and a crappy little world of low expectations. The alternative is a more humane solution of choices and flexibility - aided by machines, but not run by them.

Good post PI!

On Aug.18.2006 at 12:54 PM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:

Regarding your question on the relationship of good and different Gunnar:

I feel the two tend to operate in a weaving pattern. Sometimes the two are very far apart from each other, but sometimes they exist very close together. Call it the ebb and flow if you will, but sometimes they begin very far apart and with time end right next to each other, only to be seperated again. Sometimes they begin right next to each other and move away. The later is the case in my view of Modernism.

One of the things that strikes me about Modernism was the idea of a revolution. You ask if it can be good or bad in itself. I don't think it can be, only can it be judged good or bad based on context. Revolutions are great at kickstarting ideas, but they are bad for long, drawn out processing.

Modernism was particularly interesting in that it was almost immediately hypocritical. IT attempted to revolutionize human society by taking it away from humans themselves and relying on the machine*. It preached universality (though I admit this was perhaps a more an ideal of late Modernism) while at the same time reiventing the visual language itself — people had to learn it before it could become universal, defnitely a reverse process approach. Speaking to your question about the eternal thing, it would seem that mos tthings by now do not operate on that assumption. Because language, thought, and society change, it stands within good reason that so does the way we interpret things. Some things resonate with us longer than others, but it is hard to imagine they carry the same symbolism they did when they were created.

Does good go stale? No, but the definitions of good change as quickly as our society does now. What was appropriate 10 years ago is not now (though I'm speaking more about artifacts than I am thinking processes). The problem I see with many revolutionary things is that the first impulse is to denounce the old (perhaps thats part of the definition of revolution) rather than to seek out how and why it occured and make changes based on those outdated roles.

On Aug.18.2006 at 01:08 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Derrick,

What was appropriate 10 years ago is not now (though I'm speaking more about artifacts than I am thinking processes). The problem I see with many revolutionary things is that the first impulse is to denounce the old (perhaps thats part of the definition of revolution) rather than to seek out how and why it occured and make changes based on those outdated roles.

Does the reference to ten years ago mean that Modernism being so over is so over?

It is interesting that much of the philosophical basis of postmodernism had to do with seeing the opposite of an argument hidden in any assertion. A bit of irony (and irony is/was PoMo’s favorite state) sneaked up from behind; the PoMo designers’ denunciations of Modernist rigidity that seemed to make up every other graphic design MFA project in the ’90s follows the pattern you describe every bit as much as the work they derided did.

It seems to me that Modernism in design as a style (or a set of styles) was based on real philosophical concerns. Post Modernism (after Modernism, as opposed to postmodernism), style has become less meaningful, leaving us visually inarticulate even when we sound good. I suspect that blanket rejections or affirmations of Modernism are partially to blame.

It interests me to see where the style(s) transcended some of those philosophical concerns—for instance, the look of socialism becoming the look of multinational capitalism—and where it remains firmly embedded as described by Natalia’s bug-in-amber metaphor. It takes a careful look to determine what is the baby and what is the bathwater since the baby has grown quite a bit and shed some skin after the long soaking.


I am, frankly, confused by the amount of what seems to be projection going on in this discussion. While the book is emotionally convincing, I’m still trying to figure out how much of Natalia’s troubles really should be blamed on Walter Gropius. Mark Andresen tells us that “perfection, stripped down to beautiful essentials was supposed to free the world but became a prison instead” but I’m not sure how. Who or what was imprisoned? Where? When? How? Blaming Modernist design for the fact that credit cards have numbers befuddles me and white Fema trailers in a row may leave Mark thinking of Modernism but if they leave me thinking of Delta blues then that’s my problem, not Robert Johnson’s.

I am not being deliberately dense when I re-ask Frank’s question from the last thread: What’s wrong with Modernism? Make that: What’s specifically wrong with which specific sort of Modernist design? People are acting as if we all understand so no explanation is required; I really don’t get what people are saying.

On Aug.18.2006 at 03:02 PM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:

Gunnar
my ten years was an arbitrary and non-relative time frame. I meant simply that we as a society move faster than we used to. So it makes sense that ideologies would move at the same speed.

"What specifically was wrong with Modernism at its inception?"; or "What is specifically wrong with using Modernism presently?" I'm not sure which question you are asking.

On Aug.18.2006 at 03:19 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Derrick,

At inception or presently? Either answer would be interesting. (I have several of my own but no faith that mine and others’ coincide.) I think the former may be part of the latter answer.

When people decry the inhumanity of Modernist design I never know for sure what they mean. I suppose there’s a machine connection (although a tenuous one) but what do a FEMA house trailer and a Meis Vanderohe building have in common? And if it’s all a contrast to 15th century castles, 17th century cathedrals, or 19th century beach cottages, then where does that leave us?

Getting us back to graphic design, one could pick a date (let’s arbitrarily say 1980) and decide to hate a range of Modernist graphic designers’ work (say, Paul Rand, Massimo Vignelli, April Greiman, and Kit Hinrich’s and that’s just a little corner of American modernism) but would you hate them for the same reasons?

Some obvious problems with stylistic Modernism design at present is the dissonance with philosophical design Modernism at inception:

1) Even if we do not choose to reconsider production-as-progress, a 19th century machine image of manufacturing technology and the future seems quaint at best.* So the (stylistic) Modernist aesthetic is at odds with the origin of that aesthetic—the precept that design should be reflective of the present and/or future rather than the past. (One problem is that we seem to be stuck with Blade Runner as vision; the only future we can believe is Los Angeles minus Bel Air after smoking mushrooms.)

* (Somehow the machine aesthetic is less sad than a decade-old image of “high tech,” however. If the alternative to old school “progress” is sustainability, there’s something ironic about replacing a durable ferrous aesthetic with the ultra-rapid obsolescence of throwaway styling.)

2) The fight against the trappings of 18th century European social rank seems irrelevant in 21st century America or Asia. The early Modernist designers didn’t wage war against Indians (Kali statue carving, Mardi Gras costume sewing, or turquoise jewelry making) because they weren’t relevant to a real social struggle. The cult of Princess Di and the empire of Ralph Lauren aside, who cares about coats of arms and Baroque palaces anymore?

3) Most successful revolutionary movements (political, social, economic, or aesthetic) start out lionizing change and end up demonizing revisionism. What up wit dat?

That doesn’t mean that I think anyone has come up with much of a replacement for some basic and important Modern design principles.

So answer whichever question is most relevant to your situation. At U Cincinnati you are in the middle of frozen Modernism in, I think, both the best and worst senses. What are the problems staring you in the face?

On Aug.18.2006 at 04:52 PM
Joe Moran’s comment is:

To steal from Flannery O'Connor -- "There is the loved and the beloved." ( Or something like that. )

Perfection has to be based on the perspective of one or the other.

Who of us equally loves or hates something, really?

I "like" Rhapsody in Blue, Kind of Blue, Tangled Up In Blue and even Electric Blue. But are they perfect?

Only Picasso could tell us I suppose.

Respectfully,

On Aug.18.2006 at 08:13 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

I am, frankly, confused by the amount of what seems to be projection going on in this discussion.

This kind of personal disappointment in the rest of us less-than-Gunnar individuals is, well, nevermind... we try, Gunnar, we try...

I, for one, don't care if you get what I'm saying or not: for instance, you're mental depiction of what a FEMA trailer is or isn't. You've got to see one, walk in one, to be able to talk about it, believe me.

We keep switching from Modernism as a design philosopy to Modernism as it trickles down to the broader low-end usage. I bring up FEMA trailers because I can't think of a more dehumanizing example. It ain't Frank Lloyd Wright, that's for sure. It's not that they are just machine-made boxes for human habitation, but that they are so badly designed as to be demoralizing - and unhealthy - to inhabitants, from what I've been told. That is Modernism in the real world, outside a university classroom.

You can dismiss that all you want. I don't like Modernism, so what.....let's get a beer....

On Aug.19.2006 at 12:09 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Damn, Mark. I’m really only disappointed that you can’t tell disappointment from confusion.

On Aug.19.2006 at 03:35 PM
Pesky illustrator’s comment is:

It isn't perfect, but Gunnar, but your confusion and disappointment sound alike.

On Aug.19.2006 at 07:36 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

one too many buts....sounds like my general argument altogether. Gunnar, any combativeness is my fault, so forgive me for picking a fight. Ending Modernism isn't high on my "To Do" list today.

On Aug.20.2006 at 08:34 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I don't quite see how FEMA trailers are representative of modernism design philosphy. While a good part of modernism is sans-decoration, it's not sans-design.

I don't think FEMA trailers are modernist designs. They're just lacking design. Perhaps a better term is WalMartism.

I've seen plenty of well designed emergency housing designs that cold likely be lumped into the modernist camp. Here's one: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4973680

On Aug.20.2006 at 12:01 PM
Natalia’s comment is:

Let's do this: let's remove the word "modernism" from this discussion once and for all.Defining of terms seems to have become impossible. I imagine my "modernism" is not yours, nor Darrel's, Ricardo's. Michelle's, Bradley's, Eric's, Joshua's, Shane's, Frankie L.'s, Daniel's, Derrick's, or Joe's and I hear the jangle of Gunnar and PI's interpretants clear across the country.
I feel that many very valuable ideas have gotten lost in the sauce in this discussion because of the continuing bad-penny appearance of the M-word. The thing I felt so valuable in PI's August 18th post was his take on human and inhuman-- on the numbers in your wallet and his questions about design's role in the "dehumanization" of life. So--without using That Word, now-- Gunnar, this means you-- I ask this: is design colluding with the industrial complex to dehumanize the life of the individual, or is it the place where true humanity can find expression and flourish?

On Aug.20.2006 at 02:51 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Okay, Mom. I’ll try to be good so you don’t wash my mouth out with soap.

I think we might get hung up on the linguistic shoals of “humanity,” too. I’d argue that there are two aspects of the term as applied to design.

One corner of one of them is ergonomics. A lot of design is inhumane because its scale tends to alienate people. (Angelinos might find LACMA or the Armand Hammer as seen from the sidewalk as good architectural examples. Just about every city has some.) Some tries to ignore the human body or mind in favor of what seems to be an aesthetic agenda. A lot is inhumane because it tries to force people into the designers’ desires instead of satisfying the people’s needs. But the phrase “people’s needs” starts to bleed into the other aspect.

The sticky sort of “humanity” (and the kind those guys we aren’t mentioning distained) is an ethnocentric view of what it is to be human. I grew up in the Southern Californian suburbs so single level bungalows and Spanish style stucco boxes seem particularly human/humane to me. (And they seem like a natural part of a human environment since they’ve been there forever—like since the twenties.) Someone who grew up in a real urban center would note masses of people interacting as being central to humaness. . .

So does the second sort of “humane” just mean “familiar and soothing”? Is mac and cheese or your mother’s meatloaf more humane than sea slugs or a buche taco?

As a pragmatic problem for designers, is it possible to capture the mac and cheese/bungalow comfort of things old and familiar without just producing sad echoes of things past? Is the problem with trying to recapture that notion of humanity the same problem as being an Elvis impersonator? (You can never be better than Elvis.)

On Aug.20.2006 at 05:49 PM
Natalia ’s comment is:

Okay, Mom. I’ll try to be good so you don’t wash my mouth out with soap.

Gunnar, if you pull this ironic put-down-of-the -strong-female thing on me ever again I will immediately rip you into extremely small pieces and display you in my next book not unlike a small string of Thai prayer flags. I say this of course with the utmost respect for you as a valued member of the design intelligensia. Please move away from the microphone and let someone else weigh in.

On Aug.20.2006 at 08:38 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

More and more about this conversation that confuses me. Please take the mic.

On Aug.20.2006 at 09:15 PM
Natalia ’s comment is:

No need to perspire so heavily, Gunnar. It's going to be OK. Try to focus on your breathing.
I stick with my former question. I ask this: is design colluding with the industrial complex to dehumanize the life of the individual, or is it the place where true humanity can find expression and flourish?
This does not sound confusing to me. I do not think my students would feel confused by this question. But it is really up to someone else to jump in, I having bellowed at Gunnar in my last post and if not silenced him, at least stunned him long enough for us to get a tag in his ear.

On Aug.20.2006 at 09:57 PM
Mark notermann’s comment is:

I ask this: is design colluding with the industrial complex to dehumanize the life of the individual, or is it the place where true humanity can find expression and flourish?

Natalia, the question is not so much confusing as it is vast in its meanings. It rests on many assumptions, such as what is "true humanity," and who is "design" which now has the human ability to collude?

Assuming I understand your question, why are you looking for "design" to be a scapegoat? Design is a human activity, and there are as many answers to this question as there are people.

And it might be entirely possible that dehumanizing for one is exactly the same place as beautiful expression for another.

What is the answer you want for this question?

On Aug.21.2006 at 03:07 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Has Germany declared war on Russia again or vise versa? Someone called in the UN. Sheesh.

It would be pointless to throw gasoline on this fire-that-used-to-be-a-discussion.I'm not one of those. I've done enough damage to this wayward conversation.

I need some more coffee.

On Aug.21.2006 at 07:31 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

I've had my triple espresso and am ready for duty. Anyone else?

Thank you, Natalia, for asking is design colluding with the industrial complex to dehumanize the life of the individual, or is it the place where true humanity can find expression and flourish?

Design has slept with industry for many years dating as far back as Behrens work for AEG. But individual designers (and some institutions) have addressed humanitarian or expressionistic issues (and not Expressionism from a painters point of view) for almost as many years. Futurists and the Dada used typography (the most ancient of design tools) for social and cultural awakening.

Rather than close this discussion by answering what's better or worse about those two design paths, perhaps people could give timely examples from each. I for one would like to hear from the latter, those who design as cultural agents divorced from industrial or capitalistic/corporate gains. Too often, we view design from a vocational stand point: design as career; how can we serve and who deserves our services. But let's bring this discussion down another path once we see some examples of the humanitarian, expressionistic, or cultural agents.

On Aug.21.2006 at 10:44 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

If we're going to talk about design in that sense, we need a) a proper definition/parameter set as to what 'design' means and b) a lot more beer.

On Aug.21.2006 at 10:58 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Why limit ourselves like that, Darrel, and sidetrack things? I understand you want to bring this some context, but instead, why don't you just fire away with some examples you feel appropriate and tell us why. State your point and argue it (something tells me you'd do both things acceptably).

On Aug.21.2006 at 11:12 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Well, yea, I'm a context junkie. ;o)

And I think design is all about context.

Honestly, I'm not sure if I have a point regarding this discussion. It really does just seem like a debate of semantics, and I can't say I have a strong opinion one way or the other as to what we should all mean when we say 'modernism'.

I'm an architecture junkie, so I think most of my thought regarding moderism comes from that realm.

Even that isn't a very well defined niche definition either, though.

But...since I don't want to tackle real work yet, here's some random ramblings from my AM brain...

Modernism, to me, simply means pragmatic design utilizing technology and stripped of unecessary baggage. I don't think modernism, in and of itself, is necessarily human or inhuman just because it's modernist.

Is there a quest for perfection on modernism? I don't know. I'd maybe call it more of a quest for quality in craft. If there is something to complain about, perhaps it's that some aspects of modernism pushed the quality of craft at the expense of applicability of use. But, again (and I know I'm going in circles now) I don't think that's a problem exclusive to modernism.

On Aug.21.2006 at 11:39 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Again, I ask, and hope that people can offer examples relative to Natalia's question. Using Architecture as a model of comparison works, and has been used before by graphic designers. Alas, step forward... whether you collude or humanitize (or both?).

On Aug.21.2006 at 02:38 PM
darrel’s comment is:

is design colluding with the industrial complex to dehumanize the life of the individual, or is it the place where true humanity can find expression and flourish?

Yes.

On Aug.21.2006 at 04:08 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Who cares to offer a more enthusiastic and elaborated response?

On Aug.21.2006 at 05:00 PM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:

Have you ever tried to answer someone when they ask you "Why do you love so and so?"

Sure, you can come up with a million rational and tangible reasons why you love someone, but those million reasons are found in a lot of people and yet you dont love the others in the same way. At the end of the day, you love that person because you feel love for them.

Its the same way I feel with many things. Design is one of them.

I gather we're not allowed to use the M word in discussion anymore, but my experience with my own Mism design education is that many times it searches for all the spoken answers and denies that emotional part that truly what makes it what it is.

Thats inhumane to me — and maybe thats an answer for why it lacks humanity. Of course, humanity itslef often lacks that too, so its all to the wind.

In trying to answer Gunnar's question as to why Mism is inappropriate to me right now, I came to the same conclusion as to why I love my girlfriend or my parents or my cat. I can name a million rational specifics that are wrong with it, but they can all be found in most other processes too. So rather than overexert the Mist in me, I'll just cop out and say that it doesnt feel right right now.

Thats the best answer I can give you Gunnar.

On Aug.21.2006 at 05:26 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

Will any Post Modernists step forward?

On Aug.21.2006 at 10:30 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

Jason, you want an example, so how about the iPod?

It seems practically born out of a modern design dream. By most accounts in these corners, it is an elegantly designed and powerful tool which reduced the space requrements of a stereo and CD collection to a pack of playing cards and a small speaker set. And the features keep growing.

Many will sing praises of the iPod and pledge brand loyalty to Apple in their exuberance. It gives them freedom of movement, freedom of choice. It might (by some) be claimed as an agent of cultural change.

Now I know this might not be what you had in mind, but it shouldn't be to difficult to see the other side of this, ie: the consumerism, profit motive, planned obsolescence, consolidated media distibution, etc...

If someone is flourishing and finding expression with thier iPod can they be dehumanized at the same time?

On Aug.22.2006 at 04:11 AM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

Is design colluding with the industrial complex to dehumanize the life of the individual, or is it the place where true humanity can find expression and flourish?

The aim and purpose of the industrial complex, or capitalism is to make a buck, utilizing whatever means is most efficient, effective, and cheapest. If the consumer is dehumanized as a result, that's OK (as far as big business is concerned). I don't think there is any conspiracy; Design isn't in cahoots with Dr. Evil – some people are. If one wants to find expression and growth, isn't this subject outside the scope of industry?

On Aug.22.2006 at 09:55 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

If one wants to find expression and growth, isn't this subject outside the scope of industry?

Yes, it is outside the scope of industry. However, why should designers include it in their scope, in their body of work?

On Aug.22.2006 at 08:49 PM
Joe Moran’s comment is:

As I didn't read 'Chasing the Future,' part one, here goes...

I Like Cake

Remember, everyone likes us designers because we provide their "cake."

They can play and work while we really make / design it.

Remember "The Night Kitchen" by Sundak? That's us. The cooks. ( And they all looked strangly like Oliver Hardy. ?!?!?!? )

The client is Mikey.

"I'm in the milk. And the milk's in me," Mikey said.

That's how our "perfection" should be measured. How much "milk" is in them after we put it in? Hopefully a lot.

I hope that's not too off the wall for this group.

I also like Bar-B-Que. But I'll save that for later.

Respectfully,

On Aug.22.2006 at 10:28 PM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

Yes, it is outside the scope of industry. However, why should designers include it in their scope, in their body of work?

What I meant by "outside the scope of industry": If one wants to find self-expression in design he/she can pursue it in academia or become a sort of design artist and fill a specialized niche – when clients seek out your services, it's more like commission.

On Aug.23.2006 at 09:51 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

If one wants to find self-expression in design he/she can pursue it in academia or become a sort of design artist and fill a specialized niche

HHhhhmmmmmmmmm. . . not necessarily.

On Aug.23.2006 at 10:15 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Getting back to "Chasing The Perfect" for a second...I think Natalia, near the end of her last chapter, had hit upon the essental blind spot.

And that was witnessing the planes hit the WTC buildings and what that meant on a global scale. Though the desperate and dispicable act was brutal, of course, it was chosen as a symbol of the impossible artificiality of the modern world: SKYSCRAPERS. (Before anyone says this is preposterous bulls#it, hear me out) I'm not talking about the political but the symbolic, which is just as real. The so-called clash of civilizations is partly about those left behind by the rush towards the tallest, the fastest, the most complex that is the very essence of our Modernist culture. We go faster every day. Not better and better, faster and faster. As V.S. Naipaul says those left out of our world stand there, with their hands out in a rage, howling at us. And we don't hear a thing. So they got our attention by striking at the tallest symbol we had.

While we can't say that all the ills of the world can be dropped at the doorstep of a design aesthetic, we can admit - some of us - that it's been the facilitating meme of how we expect the world and the future to be shaped. Radical Islam may want to revert to the 13th Century, but their discontent with the West has some fraction of truth to it. They don't want it.

Now it's futile - I repeat - to argue that Modernism is at fault. Even our conflicting definitions of Modernism or its evidence in contemporary applications just confuses this current discussion. But some of us, in the days following 9/11/01 had the feeling that something NEW had to come about, something more humane and less of the rat race life we had. People acted kinder, at first, I remember. The tragedy and shock stopped the wheels of business for a little while. We were reflective of what we were racing for. All those dead had names not numbers. That lasted as long as the "Oprah Moment" and then returned to the same old life only faster. We went to war, we put on our IPod headphones and went back to our computer blogs. No one is condemning that. It's human nature when faced with overwhelming tragedy. But nothing changed essentially.

When Natalia asserts that Modernism failed us, that that other half of our humanity is unfulfilled, I think she's referring to lives cluttered with gadgets and toys and equipment to fill that void. To say there is no void is to fail to really look unflinchingly at our American/world culture. Tony Bennett, Gore Vidal and Bob Dylan may be marginal to this discussion, but all of them called it that: an American Cultural Void and everyone piled on, elsewhere, to beat them up with online comments. Anyone who mentions the big obvious hole is subject to ridicule or dismissal.

To me personally, my city of New Orleans nearly died after a hurricane and flood , and even one year later, the place that was not a rat race city is in deep, deep neglect and open hostility for wanting to return. Modernism culls those not on the path. That's why I reject Modernism. It's embelled in the very fabric of choices to streamline everything and toss out anything that isn't going in the "right" direction. In a country as rich as this, in a country able to put men is space and a military in any country, it is unwilling to help this city that is particularly un-modern.

I confess: Yes, I have an axe to grind. Yes, I'm bitter. And yes, those f*cking FEMA trailers are not a design solution to me. Two major events in the US and no design solution worth a damn. That's failure on a massive scale.

And we're not going to listen to some lady tell us that the "discontents" with Modernism are real. That's the blind spot. Only, she's right.

On Aug.23.2006 at 01:46 PM
joshua’s comment is:

i think you have two choice in life

n°1 you choose to design. you dehumanize everything around you. i think any design finishes by being boring and an obstacle for humans.

n°2. You choose not to live.

On Aug.23.2006 at 07:41 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Joshua, I think you have choices too. But it's how you process experiences and what you do to change that thing that determines if you live or half-live. Everyone dies, but half-living is just useless. We see people sleepwalking thru life everyday, but it's by choice. The world is full of tragedy but what makes us human is KINDNESS.
This bitterness of mine is not a good thing, I admit. I hate FEMA so much I can spit sometimes. So I put in my own efforts to create a different solution for individuals I know still there and still affected. They are starting businesses and I feel it's my obligation to work to help them. It can't get more personal for me. Everything else is just talk.

On Aug.23.2006 at 07:58 PM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

HHhhhmmmmmmmmm. . . not necessarily.

If I'm missing some examples, I'm open to your thoughts.

On Aug.23.2006 at 09:15 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Sent privately

On Aug.23.2006 at 10:15 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Pesky, you are onto something... and it's righteous of you to self-analyze.

On Aug.23.2006 at 10:18 PM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

HHhhhmmmmmmmmm. . . not necessarily.

Pesky, you are onto something... and it's righteous of you to self-analyze.

Can one expound or is this thread over? If so, how sad.

On Aug.25.2006 at 09:53 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

No thanks. I've said enough and apologize for unloading, dude.
It's getting near 1 year anniversary and I'm kinda jumpy...You can say anything you like...
I'll shut the [email protected]#$ up now.
Except one thing: A "Thanks" to Gunnar for introducing me to Natalia's CTP book...

On Aug.25.2006 at 11:01 AM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

Pesky,

Your comments are always appreciated.

Actually, I was quoting what Tselentis wrote; my comment was directed at him.

Having been through what you've been through, I'd think anybody would be kinda jumpy!

On Aug.25.2006 at 01:18 PM
Joseph Coates’s comment is:

I just got a copy of the second edition Inside|Outside From the Basics to the Practice of Design by Malcolm Grear.

I read most of his first edition. I don't have the first with me to check but, it seems like the second contains more information on interesting work he did (the 1996 Olympics work is very interesting - I don't think as much or any was in the first edition) also, it seems like he wrote more. I could be wrong and maybe I just forgot all this in the first.

Anyhow, in reading the second edition, I ran across two statements by Malcolm. I think in the context of Natalia's book, all of his book (and his way of designing) is interesting to think about but these two extracts seemed particularly interesting. Here they are, totally out of context but interesting none the less.

Talking about the torch design:
"In practical applications, don't believe in design for its own sake. Every design element must be backed by meaning."

A closing statement:
"Nothing, of course, is timeless. Design, along with everything else, occurs in history and reflects the days of its origin. I am not at ease with this natural law and always try to ascend fashion. My rational self recognizes the futility of this conceit, but I remain emotionally bound to the ancient quest for durable achievement. I try for permanence, if not for the objects I design, at least for the forms and principles I apply. Quality, a deeply subjective construct, remains my muse. There is no logic here, but I find solace in the ambition."

This is the "modern" attitude I have always liked and thought design was most closely connected to. This differs somewhat from the founding modern masters and the new modern in design (the perfect?). It's modern and perfection for humans - not supermen architects or blind design hero worship.

So when anyone talks about the modern and perfection. I discount the things I dislike and continue to absorb and appreciate the things I find valuable. Grear's way of working is of value to me and I think society. I do not think that is endangering anything or anyone.

On Aug.25.2006 at 11:40 PM
Natalia’s comment is:

Joseph, you could not have hit upon a person who better balances the modern and the human. Malcolm Grear's book, Inside/Outside, is a volume anyone who teaches design should own. Grear's work is at once highly educated and human: he has not supressed side of himself in order to trumpet the other: he delights in aesthetics. His work brings the best of the modern into harmony with other elements of his individuality-- his background, his heritage, his appreciation of people and their idiosyncracies, his deep knowledge of contemporary art, photography, and sculpture. His humor does not descend into a deprecatory irony, but is a appreciation of the absurd, a sense of our human place in the grand structure of things. I agree with you, his is a life-affirming modernism.

On Aug.29.2006 at 02:48 PM
Natalia’s comment is:

Please forgive preachy quality of above.
I haven't had coffee yet.

On Aug.29.2006 at 02:56 PM
Natalia Ilyin’s comment is:

I'd say 60 comments is enough for this second thread! Gunnar, thank you. I appreciate so much the time you and participants took to think and comment about the ideas discussed. If anyone has a final view or comment about the book, I beg that person to write it as a review on Amazon. Right now the unsolicited reviews there are a bit random, not to say fractured, and I would so welcome anything from this discussion's participants.
Thanks again to all.

On Sep.01.2006 at 02:11 PM
Adam Weiss’s comment is:

Modernism can actually be summed up in a few simple statements. One's own preconceptions are the only thing that might interfere with a movement that had its definite boundaries, including a beginning and an end...at least a fade out. My humble understanging has to do with an abandoning of illusion, trueness to one's materials, i.e. flat paint, 3d sculpture, organized design. A grid was highly implemented, and special attention was shown towards a clean, geometric, intentional end. Representing the west coast here at the University of Arizona - Modernism is dead.

On Sep.06.2006 at 01:46 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Sunday was Louis Sullivan’s 150th birthday. The man most associated with the slogan “form ever follows function” did as much as anyone to start defining the “rules” of Modernist design. Natalia’s “no draw” rule perhaps represents a prevalent (not universal, maybe even minor) corollary rather than a big rule. Adam’s description (and, perhaps, Mark’s association of Modernism and FEMA trailers) seem to be the convergence of at least two of the big ones.

So happy birthday, Louis. Is form following function the same rule as eschewing artifice, or, as Adam put it, abandoning of illusion? If we summed up that cluster of big M imperatives, it could be stated as a general call to honesty: Things should be what they are. That includes materials and structures. Form should reveal rather than occlude; it should reflect the truth rather than hide it. I wouldn’t claim that things always need to look like what they are but it strikes me as a good start for design thinking. (In answer to Mark’s trailer challenge I would suggest that fancified trailers would have still been FEMA trailers and that more honesty and transparency was needed in the Gulf coast in the last year, not less. The problem isn’t the look of the trailers but the nature of the trailers and everything else FEMA did. And that can’t even be rightly blamed on the poor schmucks who design cheesy house trailers.)

The second (maybe it should be listed as the first; it’s where the name comes from) big rule is that design should reflect modernity and that this means progress and a better future. A century ago that meant lionizing the power of the machine. Hell, three quarters of a century ago Woody Guthrey sang songs about the glory of damming rivers. In retrospect, you can’t blame them. It isn’t the view of a bright future that many of us have now but is the ideal (i.e., anticipating and promoting progress) wrong or is our problem that we can’t envision a brighter future as clearly as people could fifty or a hundred years ago?

So do the “rules” of modernism just need to be reapplied to the current world or are we joining Antonin Scalia in some sort of nostalgic originalism? That might make me agree to say a few words and throw some dirt on Modernism’s coffin but I think I hear breathing. Besides, nobody has begun to answer Natalia’s implied question: If Modernism is dead, what’s alive?

On Sep.06.2006 at 08:55 AM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

Besides, nobody has begun to answer Natalia’s implied question: If Modernism is dead, what’s alive?

I thought the thread was closed at 60 comments?

As for the question: Today, I don't see modernism as dead, I see it as grown-up.

On Sep.06.2006 at 09:50 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I thought the thread was closed at 60 comments?

The last half century of literary criticism has brought us farther away from the notion of the author being in control of the meaning, let alone the discussion. I assume my love of Natalia and her writing are enough in evidence that I won’t seem too rude if I just bluntly say: She doesn’t get to choose.

On Sep.06.2006 at 10:54 AM
Natalia Ilyin’s comment is:

How true Gunnar! I do not get to choose for YOU. In that inability to control fabulous you and everyone else here lies the beauty of the random world. But I get to choose for me. And, as I said, I choose to leave this lovely conversation so as to get some work done and stop being stimulated by such a shower of thoughtful ideas.
More and more in my designing and writing, I see that if I choose for me, those then are the best designs, the best ideas.
If I chose for YOU, I would be taking your power, I would be, er, a modernist.

On Sep.07.2006 at 04:57 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Calling #67...calling #67..... Sorry, I must have been occupied elsewhere after #60.

Besides, nobody has begun to answer Natalia’s aimplied question: If Modernism is dead, what’s alive?

That was not the implied question that I found after reading "Chasing the Perfect". The book, to me personally, said that, in a post-911, post-Katrina world, we need to breathe some fresh air outside the air-controlled, sealed off, impossibly artificial box of Modernism once again.

That "what's next", I think, was someone else's fear that it's impossible to name what "ism" we're in now, so it must still be Modernism. Ironically enough, the nostalgia for Modernism is alive and well on university campuses, just like Che t-shirts. The living dead of idealism.

Consequences are blind spots when you want to redesign the world in one tidy vision.

If we summed up that cluster of big M imperatives, it could be stated as a general call to honesty.

What a fantasy world, Gunnar! And Nazism just wanted purity...

On Sep.08.2006 at 08:55 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Mark, the Nazis did want purity (of a repugnant sort) but they didn’t just want purity.

I think I was clear about the limited sort of honesty I was talking about: honesty of a designed object. I stated it as “Things should be what they are.” Are you saying that you don’t think that’s an apt description of the impetus for Gropius and Mies’ display of structure, for Charles and Ray Eames’ use of plywood as plywood, for the general distain for faux finishes, false fronts, and imitation, and a rejection of most forms of decoration? I’m not claiming that everything Modern is true and honest (or True and Honest), I’m saying that they developed a design principle that was based on visual honesty.

If you think I’m wrong, will you explain how instead of merely dismissing it (or are you just here to enforce Godwin’s Law?)

On Sep.08.2006 at 10:02 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

You're right I'm merely dismissing it. Sorry to get you all heated up again. I'm being unnessesarily pesky, unfortunately: it's Friday and I'm out of Chicory Blend Coffee...

The alternative to this 'honesty in materials" you talk about isn't false finishes and imitation of nature, but honesty in relation to the objectives of designism, as Mr. Kingsley points out...

Stop me before I talk about FEMA trailers again. Oh, just shoot me, Gunnar..I deserve it no doubt...

On Sep.08.2006 at 10:58 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I’m sorry. I’m really confused. (That, BTW, means that I am really confused. It’s not some dismissive rhetorical device.)

I have no idea what you (or Mark Kingsley) might mean by “the objectives of designism” or how offering honesty in relation to them has anything to do with the question of (a) was this particular sort of honesty a principle of Modernist design and (b) is it still a worthy principle?

On Sep.08.2006 at 11:25 AM
Pesky's Last One’s comment is:

I see where the confusion lies, I think, and Gunnar, it's a POV about definitions. We'll just never agree, my friend.

Modernism can be either considered an aesthetic principle applied to architecture, art, music, industrial design - free of the low-end versions that filter down from high-end Mies or Eimes - OR it can be thought of as a worldview imperative, a pervasive application to all things, all objects, all solutions. Credit cards, plastic surgery and sneakers - may not seem to have anything in common to POV#1, but to POV#2 it's an in-your-face obvious cultural environment not a theory. Not necessarily saying it's all bad, only that it's gone into all areas of living and choices are between brands.

Someone once told me a funny story about the maid who had to clean a Frank Lloyd Wright house. She said there's not much to dust off , but then there's nothing soft that would want to make her sleep there either.

On Sep.08.2006 at 12:20 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

(Ignoring the FLW story since it seems to contradict the rejection of serious consideration of “high-end” design. . .) Where does that leave design and designers? If the world is “modern” in your second sense and that leaves the first sense tainted to the point that we refuse to take it seriously as something to consider, aspire to, or even reject knowingly, what’s left for us? Is there a choice other than either cynicism and nihilism or a retreat into a faux 18th century built for those who can afford to hire business managers to handle all of that nasty commerce and don’t have to notice that the world is full of more people than can fit into small towns at the seashore where the proprietors of the general store remember what everyone bought so they don’t even need a ledger?

I’m unclear on your point: What is the “modernist” approach to credit cards, sneakers, and plastic surgery? What would credit cards, sneakers, and plastic surgery be if we did post modern (or non modern or pre modern or whatever alternative to modern you are suggesting) design?

Or forget that anyone turned on the switch labeled “modern” and just tell me: What is the basis for starting to think about and do design? Where do we start to find design principles and ideals?

There is no set of ideals—democracy, spirituality, love, you name it—that hasn’t been carried down the wrong path. Does that preclude having ideals?

One of my hesitations about Chasing the Perfect is that it seemed to dismiss anyone who wanted to make the world better as working out of fear (as opposed to working out of love.) I was certain that her message was not that we should give up and just let whatever happens happen but that train of thought went into a siding so we never got to what loving social engagement (rather than fearful controlling social engagement) would be.

On Sep.08.2006 at 06:41 PM