Last Wednesday I went down to Sydney to see that enigmatic design guru - Stefan Sagmeister - strut his stuff as part of the Vivid ideas festival. Stefan is a rather tall thin Austrian, living and working in New York and busily influencing a swath of designers and design educators. Firstly I will let you know that he didn't disappoint, but those of you who have seen him speak probably knew this already. Sagmeister has an engaging personality and dry delivery that not only gets us thinking but keeps us entertained. I wouldn't want to run the fact checker to heavily over his presentations but it's showmanship at it's best, and does it matter how we get there if we are thinking in the right direction?
The topic of the talk was beauty, or rather it's cruel destruction by the kiddy fiddling Nazis that were the initial founders of Modernism, Adolf Loos getting particular mention. Yep it was as brutal as those Soviet housing blocks we have thankfully begun to see torn down in more recent years. Those modernists have a lot to answer for and Stefan is getting the word out there with a pretty shocking premise - yep the kiddy fiddling Nazi angle.
The very idea that we should look more towards including beauty in our design is a seemingly radical one, why do we need beauty when we can have the international style pervading all our design work? The simple answer is that human beings respond to beauty - who would have thunk it? I personally love this message and I think it gives me a nice segway into a topic I have long bored my friends about which is why is Australia still suffering from cultural cringe when it comes to our design?
Delve into our early design work (post colonisation) and you will be faced with a plethora of all that was unique to our island continent. There was not a single logo that escaped a native animal or floral emblem and yes a lot of unsympathetic representation of our indigenous peoples. I am not saying we need to head back to that kitsch time but why don't we explore what is beautifully unique about here in our design? For anyone whose interested I urge you to take a look at this incredible book:
If we look to New Zealand we can see a lot of this happening with their design and it's really quite beautiful. There seems to be a real tipping of the hat design wise to Maori culture and their indigenous flora and fauna and it's a beautiful thing.
Let me say thanks again Stefan, I have now seen the HAPPINESS talk and the BEAUTY talk, so I will continue on my merry design path trying not to get too depressed by all the uglines out there.