Conference Report: Why Does Distraction Affect Design?

On occasion of the Salone del Mobile 2014 and the launch of its new communication campaign ‘Communication Simplified' Punkt. organised a press conference moderated by Gianluigi Ricuperati, entitled ‘Why Does Distraction Affect Design?'. The speakers - Petter Neby, Oliviero Toscani and John Tree - explored how current market trends are challenging the harmony and form of design.

In his introduction Petter Neby stated: "I think one of the most urgent things for design today is redefining what we really need around us" He said that the last 10/20 years of producing for consumption has tarnished the reputation of design, associating it in the public eye with the mass production of things that people don't really need.
According to Neby we need to start taking away instead of adding, adding and adding. This doesn't mean going against progress or technology, but going back to basics to make modern-day products more approachable and essential.

Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, the creative force behind some of the world's most successful fashion brands, revealed that he is disturbed by what has been happening to design lately. He explained how he saw working with Punkt. as a welcome opportunity to focus on a campaign that had meaning and purpose. He admitted he was fed up with the market's attitude towards design, which he describes as: "Consume more, design more, pollute more." He believes the challenge for today's designers is to recognise that design is an important social and political act, and not just a profession.

When it comes to technology Toscani has no doubt of its potential for improving our lives, but he also believes that it can do more harm than good if misused. He sees the homing pigeon as the ultimate communicating machine, perfectly in line with Punkt.'s brand philosophy and Jasper Morrison's design ethos. He commented: "Homing pigeons have been connecting people with incredible speed and precision for centuries, and the fact that we don't view them with the attention they deserve just proves how we are replacing incredible design with junk."

John Tree, who has worked with Jasper Morrison for more than 10 years, believes that one of the negative aspects of tech-distraction is that it leaves little space for the imagination. He went on to say that boredom is good for creativity, and therefore essential for design. According to Tree design is the solution because only designers can change how technology is consumed, from product graphics to language, and form to function. The designer, as he puts it, lies between the technology and the end user.

In John Tree's opinion the world of products is being killed off. Smartphones are cannibalising single function products like cameras and CD players, leaving us with a single device that delivers the worst experience of all those products put together. Yet Tree is not pessimistic: he thinks it won't be long before we see what he describes as a ‘new garden' of products that go beyond combined technologies and focus once again on individual functions: "Products that aren't old, but new and very capable. Let's say, products that have been edited." He concluded by saying that Punkt. is the first scent from that new product garden available today.


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