by Sirje

The other night I happened to attend a very interesting discussion about design trends. Then I had some quite decent pizza at 12 Apostles. I ordered the “Simon.” But that’s not relevant to this discussion.

The panel of three esteemed design professionals was comprised of a North American design journalist (I think he was Canadian but I didn’t see his bio), a Spanish artist/designer and a German trend researcher.

I think there are quite a few things that the opera and design industries share in common, particularly in the way both are perceived by the majority of consumers (apathetically), and how they are promoted by insiders (for the old-schoolers, excruciatingly exclusively; for the new fans, blithely populist).

But unlike opera, design exists specifically to solve problems. Yet as the designer on the panel stated with something between a laugh and a choke, “There are no problems [to solve].” I suppose that for the last few generations of design, that’s true. We now officially have all the beautifully designed butter dishes we will ever need, in any shape or material, for ever and ever, amen. But is that really all they see left to design? Is there really so little to do that we need an entire institute to assign Jungian archetypes to people designing our whimsical living room conversation pieces?

I’m fascinated by how, exactly, people address (or don’t) a perceived lack of need for what they do, make, report, and research, especially when they themselves contribute to the irrelevance of their work, perceived or real, in an age of such unprecedented change, newness, problem and opportunity. It’s interesting to see how people or businesses deal with change: denial, exuberance, curiosity, anger…

But I’m admittedly inclined to indulgence with opera which, if it has trouble finding a relevant way into people’s hearts and pocketbooks, is because they’ve been too busy making opera. But they learn, and histrionics and theater naturally gravitate to sponsors anyway. Eventually. I mean opera feeds the soul but there are supposedly better tools out there for planning future industry, urban areas, consumer goods, houses, reading materials, green energy, transportation, carriers of information, education and medical equipment!

If an entire industry that exists to solve problems of accessibility– an entire discipline over several industries that are still very much in demand and actively NEED design– if they can’t find a way to be relevant, or drum up the intellectual curiosity to solve the problems of the world falling apart and being reborn around them every day, then they absolutely deserve to be drowned by the flood of social media, reality programming, and “everybody-is-a-star”ism that so confounds, irritates and threatens them.