This questionnaire was originally submitted to five international designers, including Charles Eames and Joe Colombo, by curator Yolande Amic, in preparation for the Museum of Decorative Arts' inaugural exhibition "What is Design?" in 1969.
Deeply influenced by its time, the original questions and answers to this questionnaire testify the birth of the discipline in the era of mass consumption.
By facing this archive, Atelier Luma's designers propose a renewed vision of design and the role of the designer in the 21st century, which after an unbridled industrialization is confronted with an environmental emergency.
What is your definition of ‘Design’? Envision human needs, in a social, technological, political, economical and environmental context, and pose ideas and solutions that reflect these needs in a concrete way. Next step is to connect to markets and partners who enable implementation in the near future and bring it to the user.
Is Design an expression of art? Design can, as art, translate an autonomous thought or vision that touches the deeper inner self. It can pose an object or concept that can be experienced. We believe design should not only pose new insights, but also aim for a concrete pathway or solution, which can be adopted and utilized.
Is Design a craft with an industrial purpose? We believe design has to be site specific, and unique, foremost in this time where we strive to re-value our identity, place of belonging and purpose. We question industrial processes as a whole, we explore the possibilities for new forms of local and decentralized fabrication.
What are the boundaries of Design? Thoughts and creativity is limitless, but we cannot deny the boundaries we are currently faced with. Facing today global challenges, we have to incorporate the social and environmental resources available and seek for balance.
Is Design a discipline that concerns itself with only one part of the environment? Like our ecology; Everything is connected.
Is it a method of general expression? Historical content and archetypes can be a powerful tool to embrace new ideas.
Is Design a creation of an individual? There are few that are perceptive and can envision new perspectives. If one is posing an idea, the other makes something out of it. Creative processes need action and reaction, that’s why we believe in interdisciplinary teams and/or networks.
Is Design a creation of a group? We need each other.
Is there a Design ethic? Ethics change over time and move with trends and our common knowledge. We approach design from an ethical point of view, incorporating social, ecologic and ethical aspects. Economical aspects for instance shouldn’t overrun the ecological, but who was aware of this 50 years ago? Now we see that economical growth doesn’t have much value when ecology declines. This also counts for other fields.
Does Design imply the idea of products that are useful? A concept, object or visualisation can evoke a discussion and can activate others. Finally usability is the only way to implement and create actual impact.
Is it possible to cooperate in the to create works reserved solely for pleasure? Why not, we want to educate and involve people, pleasure creates openness for interaction and stimulates transformation.
Ought form to derive from the analysis of function? Form is never leading; it follows from its technological, historical, social and ecological boundaries.
Can the computer be a substitute for the Designer? Creatives will probably be the last ones taken over by automation.
Does Design imply industrial manufacturing? We are rethinking industrial manufacturing and seek for a new organisation of fabrication models that give more democratic and social equality and collective responsibility.
Is Design used to modify an old object through new techniques? New techniques lead to new forms. We seek for timeless values in historical objects, in the archetype of objects that we explore through new technologies. We think communicating by objects set in our collective memory creates acceptance for the new.
Is Design used to fit up an existing model so that it is more attractive? Design has to challenge old models, and seek for the new, and reach further than the aesthetic only.
Is Design an element of industrial policy? Yes but it shouldn’t be solely profit driven.
Does the creation of Design admit constraint?
In our profession constraints are the starting point of a project. Our aim is to create more possibilities and insights.
Does Design obey laws? It has to break old models, but be in harmony with our social and natural balance. Laws should rather be taken up to make the transition to new models possible, not compromising them.
Are there tendencies and schools in Design? Design is a concretised fraction of an on-going movement, and design schools can learn how to unveil, react and maybe even predict them.
Is Design ephemeral? Seeing design as trends only is a rabbit hole.
Ought Design to tend towards the ephemeral or towards permanence? Everything we make and use, should go. Over the past years we’ve been working on the development of processes, which are fully compatible with the ecological cycle, and are closed loop: From the cultivation of biomass, growing materials with microorganisms, till the end product and its possible revitalisation. In these projects we seek for applications in for instance daily utensils, from tableware to architecture, eventually ephemeral. But it’s a relative statement, it requires context, as for instance the monument for WOI or the roman fortress ‘Fectio’ we designed, and deliberately executed in the same materiality as the found artefacts, with reused stones used for a similar architectural wall 2000 years ago.
How would you define yourself with respect to a decorator? an interior architect? a stylist? We have a different starting point. Design has to be more than just an esthetical approach.
To whom does Design address itself: to the greatest number? To the specialists or the enlightened amateur? To a privileged social class? We strive to bridge those gaps and think bigger than the sub-culture or a specific target group, we want to challenge production cycles, the division of labour, and strive to find new economical models. We rather seek for a local link on a specific place, which can have impact on a wide range of target groups.
After having answered all these questions, do you feel you have been able to practice the profession of ‘Design’ under satisfactory conditions, or even optimum conditions? Our work is always exploring the new, which requests a lot of energy, but feeds us and others and educates even more. We are always curious and interested in any situation.
Have you been forced to accept compromises? As independent designers it offers freedom in thinking and creation, but this always involves compromises.
What do you feel is the primary condition for the practice of Design and for its propagation? Focus on progressive advancement, but simultaneously seek for collective acceptability, which becomes visible when people are willing to join.
What is the future of Design? We see that communities are proceeding to define their local identity, position and authenticity. They are in need of solving local problems due to accelerated change of their environmental and economical position. In this increasingly fragmented society, they’ll be simultaneously fed by an even stronger exchange of global knowledge and advancements in smart and shared intelligence and technologies. This might enable us to solve global problems on a local scale, and will set the scope of design on both the local and global level.