I recently returned from a design trip to Copenhagen, where the Interior Design department visited many museums, galleries and buildings to develop our practice. What I noticed on the trip was how I have started to question design in relation to my visual cultural studies since starting the academic year.
In relation to areas in which my practice is specifically connected, I found that there is a real hierarchy of design ‘owners’, in that a small number of people have classed items as being of importance, and to that end the rest must follow suit in agreeing and accepting those definitions. In terms of design history that makes absolute sense, eg: The Bauhaus changed ornamentation into form follows function and delineated all items, and given the age in which it happened it connects to social and economic change. I do love modern architecture, especially Brutalism and post modernist hard lines, as it visually inspires me, but every item has a subjective reaction.
My creative conflict in this area became clear in Copenhagen, and especially in furniture design. The Danish are renowned worldwide for their design developments; and have a clear style of design and form. I know that I am supposed to admire all of the pieces, but my own aesthetic tastes sometimes clashed with a lot of these examples. For example, I don’t really like Arne Jacobsen chairs as visual items, I think they look clunky and uncomfortable. This is a design SIN to admit according to some of my peers! But, even if I respect the history of a work and its development, I do not see why I should follow suit and say it is beautiful and moves me if I don’t think it applies. That seems like hypocrisy.
In light of visual cultural studies, a lot of the items smack of Bourdieu’s class theories of comfort and social class in ‘tasteful’ items, and this is what I thought about a lot when in Copenhagen and looking at yet another showroom of similar designs. I ended up thinking that it had a sheep mentality and that people only buy these items because they are being ‘told’ they are great designs, and maybe not always as they actually like them and they create emotive responses. It was so ‘stylish’ that I found it very middle class and bourgeois, and even peeping into peoples homes I could see really similar designs everywhere. It felt very uncreative and bland.
This does prove to me that all taste is personal, and that I obviously react to furniture designs in a specific way. I do not think there are any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ designs, but that an emotional response to them is what I think is most important. In that way it is similar to looking at a painting or sculpture and responding to it quite primordially. I am not sure where that stems from, I do not think it is a class based system as I appreciate designers just for the product and not their status, past or name. It also is not a design movement issue, as again I really like some designs and dislike others from exactly the same genre.
This trip was a useful exercise in thinking about design & style, and questioning it in relation to interior design.