#ADesignLibrary: Design and Violence (2015)

Design solves problems is one reason the field is so attractive. It was a reason I started studying it too. But I vividly recall the 2007 GOOD magazine cover where an AK-47 gun confronted me with the fact that “good” design could be “bad”. Such a contrary view is the subject of Design and Violence (2015), a print record of an originally online platform started by Paola Antonelli and Jamer Hunt. In 2013, they began uploading designs related to violence—defined as “a manifestation of the power to alter the circumstances around us, against the will of others and to their detriment”—and inviting commentators from a wide variety of disciplines to reflect on each. Online public discussions were encouraged too. Besides the expected, such as weapons and prisons, the project investigates lesser known ways of violent design. For instance, a ramp for killing cattle in a “humane” manner, genetically-modified rice that has strained ecosystems and applying design thinking in war. While the project focuses on facilitating discussion rather than making a stand, it is a painful reminder that design is good… for violent ends too.

#ADesignLibrary spotlights lesser known design books, and invites public access to my personal collection of titles that focuses on Singapore architecture and design, Asian design, everyday design, critical and speculative design as well as design theory and philosophy. I welcome inquiries and physical loans.

#ADesignLibrary: Modes of Criticism #5 (2019)

The grid system. The A-format of paper. Capitalism. Just some of the systems that graphic design operates in and often reproduces. In the fifth issue of the Modes of Criticism journal (2019), editor and designer Franciso Laranjo and other writers take apart “Design Systems” to trace the ideologies that shape the practice. From revealing Japanese design’s historical belief in “cultural supremacy” to exploring alternative values and practices to capitalism’s exploitative nature, the collection offers much food for thought about the systems we live in and where they have led us to today.

#ADesignLibrary spotlights lesser known design books, and invites public access to my personal collection of titles that focuses on Singapore architecture and design, Asian design, everyday design, critical and speculative design as well as design theory and philosophy. I welcome inquiries and physical loans.

So You Think You Are a Designer?

The designer is becoming endangered. The individual who marries form and function to produce physical things — such as books, automobiles, clothes, interiors and buildings — has been reclassified by some as the “classical” designer in recent years. Judging by how popular “classical music” is, the new term suggests that the designer as we have long known is increasingly regarded as a thing of the past, or even worse, archaic.

But far from going extinct, the designer is undergoing a redefinition because of the profession’s growing status. Once regarded simply as technicians who supported industrialisation, particularly in making products visually attractive, designers have since climbed their way into corporate boardrooms, and even the offices of policymakers. This has been fuelled in part by a frustration with the status quo and in response to technological disruptions in the profession. As the act of designing has become more accessible with software and templates, designers have been confronted with the existential question of who they really are.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #98 — Working with Intent