Remember the Day when design was for everybody

Like Hugh Pearman (DW 11 September) I was pleased to catch The Reunion on Radio 4. Lucienne Day’s comment that they ‘wanted to design for everybody, not for the elite’ was a wonderfully progressive view in 1951.

Like Hugh Pearman (DW 11 September) I was pleased to catch The Reunion on Radio 4.

Lucienne Day’s comment that they ‘wanted to design for everybody, not for the elite’ was a wonderfully progressive view in 1951.

Radio 4 scored again last week, bringing together Tom Dixon and Kenneth Grange on Between Ourselves. Dixon, commenting on Grange’s work, noted that he ‘would love to do things that people use everyday’.

Pearman believes rightly that social circumstances and a lack of cynicism underlay the optimism and confidence of the festival designers. In the immediate post-War period there was also a belief in satisfying the needs – and, later, desires – of ordinary people.

While design retains this populist disposition it has taken on a ‘radical’ approach in which people tend to be seen as the cause of problems – smoking, over-consuming, acting unethically – or as victims of these phenomena.

In the 1950s the prevailing attitude was that design was able to improve everyone’s lives and that people, without distinction, deserved better. The idea that we might not approve of particular choices or activities didn’t come into it – design could increase the total social good.

If we forget this and allow a misanthropic populism to take hold in designland we will end up imposing our morality on our fellow citizens, not delivering intelligent design.

I was in agreement with Tom Dixon when, commenting on his appointment at Habitat, he argued that ‘I saw it as more radical than tr

ying to be radical’.

Nico Macdonald

Design Agenda

London EC2

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