Each year I receive a visitation from the Angel of Design, who comes in the form of a phosphorescent cloud shaped like Terence Conran’s head and is always laden with gifts. I asked him to take the Philippe Starck lemon squeezer back (so last century), but his book of visions for the year ahead is always welcome. Here is a little selection.
A trains-to-planes-to-retail conglomerate continues its brand extension strategy with the launch of a funeral arm. The service is intended to make the selection of everything, from coffin materials to the style of service, simpler and cheaper. At a champagne press launch at Highgate Cemetery, a company spokesbeard said: “A whole generation of consumers want a more rock ‘n’ roll funeral. Traditional ‘parlours’ don’t meet that need. It’s interesting we’re here in Highgate today, as I think Karl Marx would approve of our revolutionary approach to this area.” Red hearses will be rolled out in the UK from April, each adorned with the words, “Xxxxxx Funerals – everything else is dead boring.”
Lastminute.com follows its use of printed brochures in December 2000 by opening booths at major railways, stations and airports. A spokesperson says: “This is a really exciting move into real-time, face-to-face user interaction that will shake the retail industry up”.
Shock at the Dome as the new owners begin the task of dismantling the exhibits and discover that inside each “zone” is a huge vacuum. “We knew there was no real content here, but we didn’t think we would find these dark whirlpools of nothingness.”
Britain’s newspapers believe the new Wembley National Stadium could – with their help – turn into another Dome fiasco, but the Government and the Football Association move quickly to scale the project down. The original plans for a £660m, Sir Norman Foster-designed super-stadium with hotel complex, shopping centre and business park were reduced in scope last December, but the final FA-approved designs feature a length of open terracing, a burger stall and a Portakabin selling souvenir programmes. “The new design gives a nod to traditional football architecture while accommodating the commercial realities of the game today,” says the FA.
Lastminute.com announces plans to create large retail spaces in urban centres across the UK. A spokesperson says, “This is a radical new way to create relationships with users – or ‘customers’ as we call them. We’ve invented a new term for these large, real-life interaction centres: ‘shops’.”
Inspired by calls for the design industry to promote a new generation of leaders and innovators, the Design Business Association starts discussions on whether plans should be made to possibly create a strategy to invite some of the industry’s most forward thinking practitioners to lecture, maybe. Raymond Loewy, William Morris and French “new wave poster designer” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec are contacted.
The Government minister for Design and Cool Creative Stuff That Makes New Labour Look Contemporary announces that Battersea Power Station will be transformed into a Tate Modern-style venue where people can experience British design excellence. Initial plans are to turn the building upside down to create a giant table incorporating a 12 500-seat Conran restaurant.
However, the Government decides to scale its plans down and sells the site to Sainsbury’s, which will build a megastore there. “Think of it as a living museum of contemporary packaging and retail design,” says a Government minister. Asked whether this, together with the smaller scale of the Wembley project, represents lack of ambition in the area of public developments, the minister replied: “Not at all, and rumours that all that empty space at the Tate Modern will be turned into executive penthouses are very wide of the mark”.
Lastminute.com dumps its website, drops “.com” from its name and concentrates on its “shops”. A spokeswoman says: “We are pioneering a revolutionary way for people to buy things, using exciting new media platforms such as shelves and counters and high-end transaction and fulfilment technology such as tills and paper bags. We have seen the future of retail and it is truly exciting.”