About two months ago, Hong Kong hosted its yearly, global design event: Business of Design Week. BODW is a 3-day event (Dec 1-3) that occurred in conjunction with a number of other events in the city. This year’s partner country was Germany. Who is more influential in German design, if not the design industry as a whole, than Dieter Rams?
Dieter Rams was the opening speaker to kick off the Business of Design Week on its first day. Speaking in his native language of German, Rams spoke of many important issues to design. In addition to sustainability, Rams emphasized the importance of design to the consumer society, where design should constantly adapt to users’ needs and contribute to better living environments. He reinforced his 10 Commandments of Design and highlighted minimalistic design to meet the demands of consumers, stating that “simplicity is the ultimate” goal of good design. There were a number of take-aways from Rams’ speech. He stated that “design is not an isolated service” and requires involvement, teamwork, and cross-pollination of ideas. In addition, “design considers behavior patters and relationships,” and “immersion from start to finish.”
Interestingly (or not) his 10 Commandments of Good Design remain the same as they are when he first published them in the early 1980’s:
1. Good design is innovative
2. Good design makes a product useful
3. Good design is aesthetic
4. Good design makes a product understandable
5. Good design is honest
6. Good design is unobtrusive
7. Good design is long-lasting
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
9. Good design is environmentally friendly
10. Good design is as little design as possible
Rams ended his speech with his five pillars of design that drive his principles: function, effective communication, aesthetics (of unobtrusive beauty), usability, usability and purpose, and sustainability.
Additional speakers on the first day included RISD’s John Maeda, Henry Steiner (graphic/communication designer most known for his HSBC logo), and Fritz Frenkler of f/p design GmbH. Frenkler designs a wide range or products: office and domestic furniture, lighting, tableware, home appliances, and audio/video equipment. Cause for some conference-debate, Frenkler noted complete distinction between ‘design’, entertainment, and industrial art, ensuring that industrial design as it’s own separate and defined industry for mass manufacture.
Do DMB readers have any comments to this? Can design be considered art, where art is made for the artists’ own fulfillment, and design should be made for consumer fulfillment? Are designers like Philippe Stark more in the realm of artist or designer?
Most notable from Day 2 of the conference was Werner Sobek, who spoke passionately and impressed the audience with his ground-breaking, environmentally-focused architecture. Recycle and reduction of waste are central to his work pieces and examples, which included minimal energy use, little to no waste, and simple solutions.
In addition to the German speakers, a number of Chinese designers also spoke at this years conference. Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu of Neri&HuDesign and Research Office showed some examples of their interior and architectural work inspired by today’s China and traditions.
Speaking of tradition and heritage, another highlight of the day was Jiang Qiong-er the Founder and Creative Director of Shang-Xia, a Hermès project. Jiang Qiong-er wears her 1-piece felt jacket in the photo above. (That's right. One piece of felt!)
She spoke genuinely and insightfully about history, culture and a revitalized appreciation of traditional Chinese handicrafts. Jiang Qiong-er showcased her process and the products created through the collaboration with the Chinese craftsmen. She elaborated on the long process that occurs in getting to know the craftsman and their craft in order to modify and push the limits of their work. I must say that her examples of space, product, and experience were beautiful and sensual.
A theme that ran throughout was the importance of community consideration in design. John Higson’s project intensely involves his neighborhood in their own community design, engaging with environmental technology companies to create art and installation pieces for 100 houses. The PMQ project creates a community space for designers and artists in Hong Kong. And the disaster relief work of Shigeru Ban considers local materials and the needs of the citizens when they are under stress. Simple solutions to their surrounding built environment can provide relief.
As announced in the BODW opening ceremony, 2012 is Hong Kong’s official Design Year. Stay tuned for events from HK in the coming year!
Photos: Courtesy of BODW and DT Communications