Inspiration: Design Thrives in Hard Times

Inspiration: Design Thrives in Hard Times

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Maxwell Ryan
Jan 8, 2009

Boy, am I glad it's a new year. Though I'll admit to a certain amount of anxiety over what the new year will hold, I am sure that it will include a good dose of reality and of planting our feet more firmly on the ground, which, though painful, will undoubtedly be good for us... and good for our HOMES and design as well. Time to get back to basics.

In Sunday's NYTimes, Michael Cannell put it really well in Design Loves a Depression: "Design tends to thrive in hard times..."

In the scarcity of the 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames produced furniture and other products of enduring appeal from cheap materials like plastic, resin and plywood, and Italian design flowered in the aftermath of World War II."

And from Paola Antonelli quoted in the same article -

"What designers do really well is work within constraints, work with what they have. This might be the time when designers can really do their job, and do it in a humanistic spirit."

There are a number of design directions that are poised to flourish in the months and years ahead and we'll be looking for all of them here at AT. The first one that Sara and I are in to, Extreme Knitting, I'll tell you about tomorrow, but in the meantime, here's a short reading list of articles and a book that inspired me over the holiday. I recommend all of them:

>> Design Loves a Depression by Michael Cannell

>> Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - This page turner is Gladwell's best book since Tipping Point. It's about where "success" comes from but it could easily be about "innovation" as well.

>> The End of the Financial World as We Know It by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn - This is a purely financial critique of the past year, but with Lewis's great writing and Einhorn's deep knowledge of the subject. This is as good an explanation as any of our current situation.

>> While Detroit Slept by Thomas Friedman - The US auto industry is a good example of poor design and problematic business structures. Friedman doesn't just take them to task, he point to a remarkable example of how car design is being rethought in Europe.

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