Friday, 24 September 2010

Anarchy at the design festival?

Earlier this week, I was invited to attend a talk by Neville Brody, founder of the curiously named Anti-Design Festival. This is an alternative event to London Design Festival, which Brody feels has become “too polished.”  He believes that design in the West has become fixated with “working on something for profit” and "putting bums on seats.”

With funding raised from both private and public sources, Brody invites anyone so inclined to join him in expressing their creativity, by designing and/or making something in premises and with resources provided by ADF during the festival. He’s particularly concerned to get across the message that failure is okay. Design doesn’t have to be perfect. Designers should explore ideas, rather than being obsessed with style.

Brody wishes to encourage discussion... His own view is that “culture should be publicly funded.” He thinks that proposed cuts are purely “ideological” and that the Government is making a political statement. “Philosophically, the Government doesn’t want to fund culture,” he says.

With people travelling from all over the world to study design in the UK, London has become the international capital for interns, and the competition for jobs in design is high. The result is that Britain is now very much a global leader in the field of commercial and creative design, as evidenced from the world class output on display across the capital during the London Design Festival.

I’d never heard Mr Brody speak before, and whilst he was great at spinning out controversial sound bites, I remain unconvinced of his arguments. In my opinion, success needs to be measured in terms of something that’s useful to the designer, the end user and the person paying for the product. If that product is a work of art, then yes, there’s going to be more subjectivity involved in the purchasing process than if it’s purely functional. However, as we currently live in a capitalist society, and especially in the current economic environment, it just doesn’t make any sense to be paying for people to create stuff that’s not even any good – just so they can ‘experiment’.

Moreover, where does education fit in to all of this? It’s curious Brody thinks that competition and results aren’t important, especially in view of his new role at the RCA. Could it be that Mr Brody is trying to cash in on the new trend of DIY design? Or does he want to encourage a nation of spongers – or even incite us to anarchy, and a return to the Dark Ages?

Anyway, I think Tent London and the Origin Crafts Fair are showing some amazing pieces of work this year, made by an incredibly talented bunch of designers, who must be working very hard too. And these are just two venues out of around 200 events taking place as part of the original London Design Festival. If you’re ShopCurious, I suggest you take a look for yourself this weekend – and do let me know what you think.

Will you?

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