Vox Pop

Definitions of design have come under the spotlight again following the public ‘style over substance’ furore between the trustees of the Design Museum. How do you prefer to define what design is, or should be?

‘Design should be enlightening and accessible. I value style and substance in equal measure. What this recent dispute has done is suggest to Joe Public that design is a frivolous and self-centred business – everything that design shouldn’t be.’

Fernando Gutiérrez, Partner, Pentagram

‘Every ten years or so, this issue comes up. Frankly, it bores me. Designers give shape to thoughts, ideas, services and products, and what we may consider a substantial idea today could turn out to have been a stupid trend tomorrow. There is good style and bad style, as there is good substance and bad substance. Style is the outside of substance, and substance is the inside of style. They cannot not coexist, because “you cannot not communicate” as Paul Watzlawik put it.’

Erik Spiekermann, United Designers Network, Berlin

‘An impression of the Design Museum is that it reflects the popular media’s current definition of design, a simplified focus on object and celebrity. It could be argued that this is its main role, to interpret the zeitgeist and to get Joe Schmo engaged, however superficially. In a perfect world it would also be about context, process, materials, teamwork, economics, problem solving – the more prosaic things that are more difficult to communicate in an entertaining way – but are nevertheless central to the design process.’

Andy Davey, Creative director, TKO Design

‘In its purest form, design is both a process for solving problems and an outcome in itself. Effective design is a combination of the following: attainment of a quantifiable objective, a reflection of the product or service it represents, and the delivery of an aesthetic that resonates with its intended target audience.’

Jez Frampton, Chief executive, Interbrand

‘Everybody now deserves good design – it has almost become a right. The educated buyer isn’t easily duped, they can spot style over substance from 50 yards. Good design is honest, balanced and engaging, and by and large the museum has reflected this up to now. Let’s hope the Shad Thames Soap winds up soon.’

Peter Phillips, Managing partner, The Brewery

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