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Will Hard Times Lead to Better Design?

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Speaking of hard times, but this time about the design industry for a change, Michael Cannel has an interesting piece for the NY Times entitled “Design Loves a Depression.” Cannel believes that, if history is any judge, that great design and innovation flourishes when there are fewer means out there among the masses. Which makes perfect sense when you think of inventions made by clever prisoners in jail or the early career of Charles and Ray Eames. What’s more, he thinks design could use a little wake-up call following the recent design-as-art boom whose auctions figures were getting a little too close to the absurd for his liking. Here’s a bit:

Looking back, those of us with front-row seats might have known that this design surge would not sustain itself. Two years ago, at the Milan furniture fair, Marcel Wanders, a Dutch designer known for arty provocations, held a thumping party to show off his 15-foot-high lamps and other furniture of distorted Alice-in-Wonderland scale. Never mind that his work was upstaged by his girlfriend, Nanine Linning, who hung upside down half-naked while mixing vodka drinks from bottles affixed to a chandelier. Form followed frivolity. Function was left off the guest list.

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