Our own little design world

The latest International Design Yearbook urges practitioners to reach out to the public, says Max Fraser

Dedicated to everything ‘new, characteristic, thought-provoking, inspirational, distinctive, memorable, weird and witty’ in the world of contemporary domestic design, the International Design Yearbook is now in its 20th edition. The 2005 edition is guest edited by a flamboyant Dutch designer, Marcel Wanders, the latest in a series of luminaries drawn from the world of design and architecture, which has included Ron Arad, Jasper Morrison, Ingo Maurer, Ross Lovegrove, Karim Rashid and Tom Dixon. Pity general editor Jennifer Hudson, who has had to learn the traits of each design personality, and no doubt endure occasional flared egos and niggling perfectionism along the way.

All too aware that it is predominantly design industry sorts who will be forking out the necessary £45, Wanders uses the opportunity to deliver a message to these readers: ‘We have to grow out of our own little world. We all agree with each other too much. It’s sometimes scary to see that what we consider to be a great piece has no meaning at all to a wider public.’ He has a good point – so many great design ideas will never reach the man on the street. They are dubbed by the industry as innovative and exciting, yet deemed too commercially risky. ‘When you have finished reading this book, please do not lay it aside,’ he asks. ‘Instead, hand it to a person you feel you can inspire with these little pictures, these little pieces of writing, these little signs of passion for creating a new world.’

The seamless layout, which avoids being chaptered into the usual product categories, lends intrigue and variety to each turn of the page. Wanders covers industry trends, from hand-crafted to technically engineered, low-tech to digitally mastered, composed to randomly generated, slick versus decorative.

In addition to the already well-featured designs from many of his designer mates, he manages to interject a higher ratio of surprise choices than has been the case in previous editions – everything from biodegradable underwear packaging and intelligent running shoes to disposable mobile phones made from recycled paper pulp. The captions have a useful website reference and some are accompanied by cheeky hand-scrawled comments from Wanders, declaring ‘I _ Hella’ or ‘Bertjan Pot is a hero’. Such random interjections add fun and soul to an otherwise documentary annual review.

The International Design Yearbook 2005, guest edited by Marcel Wanders, published by Laurence King, price £45

Latest articles