12 Feb Gracia Cardona: Designs, Trends and the Internet
The tastes and needs of design “consumers” inevitably change with the times. In these turbulent days we often hear talk of a return to basics, to origins, to the classics, to homely materials, to organic forms that remit us to Mother Nature. It seems as if we have left behind the superficial, the artificial, aggressive forms, the high-tech. Or, as many have already claimed, luxury is dead. But this is just an “aesthetic” reaction of the current economic and financial situation, inexorably spreading like wildfire to every corner of our planet.
Design is locked into trends, no matter how much people refuse to admit it. And, without Internet it would be impossible to understand the current situation of accelerated and global change that devours everything. Indeed, the Net quickly propagates the so-called “butterfly effect” by which something originated here has an unexpected consequence on the other side of the planet. The brutal economic downturn sparked off not so long ago in an American bank with a glamorous-financial aura has, among other things, led to the sale of more vintage furniture with an 1950s aesthetic than ever before. Why is this?
As in an endless domino with a thousand ramifications, the opinions, feelings, sensations, and preferences of thousands of web surfers travel through the Net in a chaotic, anarchic albeit unstoppable manner. In the form of links and Facebook “I like this”, of 140-character Twitter tweets, or the posts of outspoken bloggers, the tastes of consumers fly through the Internet turning the “pass it on” into the most powerful tool for creation today and the propagation of trends.
For some time now, we have accepted that the shifts in the world of fashion are bottom-up, in other words from the street to the catwalk. Coolhunters travel the world, hanging around street corners in city neighbourhoods off the beaten path to discover the latest “word” on the underground, in down-at-heel bars or among the most bizarre urban tribe. Fashion bloggers make the unlikeliest of combinations, present new looks that would have been impossible to imagine just a few years ago, and freely express their views on upmarket brands. And now they get preferential treatment with front row seats at major fashion shows.
Something similar is happening with the design of objects, of spaces and even of buildings. Architects with years of experience to their credit, well informed gurus, exquisitely refined consumers, are now forced to rub shoulders with “bad taste” intruders in the formerly elitist world of design: everyone is on an equal footing, everybody can express his or her opinion on the Internet, they are all part of this spontaneous process of creativity.
For many years, industrial designers used to decide, with a certain despotic-enlightened attitude, what Good Design should be. In their creative orthodoxy, functionality was the essential principle: forms had to be simple and colours discreet. Among professionals, there was also an accepted conviction that these rules WERE NOT a passing trend. Good Design was simply that: Le Corbusier was good (he had always been and would always be good); the Bauhaus was the school of schools, the one that should guide all designers till the end of their days. This is what we could call a top-down approach, that is, a polite way of ensuring that a decision-taking process is neither too creative nor too democratic.
Notwithstanding, the Internet seems to be helping to change all these things a little bit. Minority brands are now being sold online around the globe; young designers clock up thousands of followers in Facebook; fun projects in the remotest corners of the world inundate the new online media. Everything has its space and its communication platform in a world immersed in a non-stop race, and where viral communication has replaced marketing strategies launched by elitist brands out of the reach of the majority of people. The taste for the new, for the authentic, for curiosity, and even for good humour is “playing down” the creative process. In the midst of chaos, everything seems simpler, nearer at hand, more democratic.
Any creative activity is now showcased in the bog shop window that is Internet, and it is up to the world to choose. Friendliness, proximity, lack of solemnity, discretion, lack of pride, modesty are new values of an aesthetic that is now being decided and, even more to the point, being bought bottom-up. More at Hiatus’ book.