Essential facts, authoritative opinions and a provocative list of the most influential designers.
Design: The Definitive Directory of Modern Design is a dynamic and comprehensive guide to the subject. Global in scope, this book includes architecture, industrial design, furniture, fashion, cars, clothing, graphics, consumer products, signs and much more -- all complemented by 300 color photographs. There are also up-to-date profiles of the innovators and visionaries past and present whose achievements have forever changed the way we view ourselves and the world.
A series of essays outlines the role of design in modern cultural history and includes Terence Conran's definition of design. The main section of the book is an A-Z directory of the most influential people, products and processes of the past and present centuries and includes biographies of leading designers. The authors also share their personal views on today's newest achievers.
Among the topics examined:
Up to date, provocative and completely original, Design will be a sourcebook for professional designers, an essential guide for students of design, and a revelation for general readers hungry for information about design and designers.
The featured subjects include, among many others:
Stephen Bayley is a regular contributor to art and design magazines. He lectures worldwide, is frequently interviewed and quoted by the media, and judges international design competitions.
Sir Terence Conran is one of the world's leading designers, furniture makers and retailers. His architecture and design practice is responsible for prestigious projects around the world. His books, including the ground-breaking The House Book, have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
A note on good design
What is good design? This is a question asked very often, but rarely answered successfully. The answer is that it is immediately visible: something that has not been intelligently designed will not work properly. It will be uncomfortable to use. It will be badly made, look depressing and be poor value for money. And what's more, if it doesn't give you pleasure, it is bad design. You would be stupid to want bad design. Good design really is intelligence made visible.
Everything that is made betrays the beliefs and convictions of the person who made it. Everything has been designed. Conscious or unconscious decisions have always been made which affect the way a product is manufactured, how it will be used and what it looks like. This applies to a flint arrowhead or a cruise missile. Even arranging food on a plate is a design decision. As is your signature, a very important one in fact as it shows how you want people to perceive you.
My answer about good design, or thoughtful design as I'd prefer to call it, is that it comprises 98 per cent commonsense and 2 per cent of a mysterious component which we might as well call art or aesthetics. A good design has to work well, be made at a price the consumer finds acceptable and it must give the consumer practical and aesthetic pleasure. It also must be of a quality that justifies the price paid. If the design has some innovatory qualities then, at least in my opinion, it becomes an even better design. In addition, well-designed products tend to have a long lifespan and usually acquire an attractive patina of usage. Which is to say, it gets better as it gets older: old Levis, a legible printed page, a leather club chair, good shoes, table and chairs would all be examples.
I believe a designer has to research his subject before he puts pen to paper or mouse to computer. The car designer Peter Horbury pins-up photographs of all his inspirations before he starts work. On a new Ford pick-up truck, for instance, he used archive shots of Airstream trailers and steam locomotives. He says 'you need to tell a story'. You need to know history. Not least because those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. You learn from history; but you aim for the future. The designer's job is not to repeat history; but to make it. It is also essential in my opinion to know your market: how people live, where they live, their income and their aspirations. You must also have a clear idea of why and how what you are designing will improve their lives.
All this relates to the manufacturing process, the materials you use and the methods of distribution. No designer can work effectively if he does not understand the capability of the machinery he must use. The same can be said of cost structure and the humdrum facts of distribution and sales. How the product will be sold, displayed and packaged are all vital parts of the designer's task and must be fully understood at the beginning of any project.
Innovation is a defining characteristic of good design. The capacity to see a new solution to an existing problem is what a designer does. But that is not the same as saying good design involves a restless search for novelty; Good design tends to be enduring. It's this tension between finding effective innovations and achieving lasting values that, so far as I am concerned, gives the designer so much of his creative energy. The designer always needs a proper working relationship with the engineer, the materials technologist. This sort of collaboration is going to be ever more important in future, as established definitions and distinctions about design, art and architecture become ever more blurred in a world where the most significant activity is the invisible organization of electrons in the information economy.
In a changing world, some things remain the same. I firmly believe it is the designers responsibility to help improve the quality of people's lives through products that work well, are affordable and look beautiful.
That seems to me an intelligent solution.
A note on disegno
In the Renaissance, draughtsmen did what was called disegno. For Leonardo da Vinci, the greatest draughtsman of them all, disegno meant not just the art and craft of drawing itself, but the ability to communicate ideas graphically. Leonardo's broad interpretation of disegno was very close to what we call 'design': an ability to conceptualise an idea, express it in materials and prove it by demonstration. When the word disegno migrated into English in the sixteenth century; it came to mean not merely 'drawing', but intention.
Today, design has both these senses: a useful mixture of creative expression and intellectual purpose. Leonardo knew that already. In his letter of application to Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, he listed his talents and achievements, putting the design of useful canals far in front of mere decorative painting or sculpture. Design is an art that works.
A note on good design by Terence Conran