What gives design longevity?

The Design Manchester 13 festival takes longevity as its theme. What do you think gives design longevity?

Malcolm Garrett

‘Design achieves longevity when it comes to exist “beyond time”. Good design is neither frivolous nor merely fashionable, but that’s not to say it can’t be fun, or have a voice. While it must exist beyond style and beyond fashion, paradoxically it must be fashion-conscious. Timeless does not mean faceless or anonymous. Good design has to be of the moment to make its presence felt, but it can not just be for the moment, as it will then become progressively less relevant as requirements and tastes change. So, good design may well help define an era, but to achieve longevity it must have the strength to transcend the time of its origin.’

Malcolm Garrett RDI, ambassador, Design Manchester 13

Dave Sedgwick

‘To me, graphic design that has longevity is more often than not design that has a soul. It’s not always easy, but to get some form of idea into something, no matter how minimal, is what makes something stand the test of time. For example, The Fedex logo, almost 20 years old, still resonates today as it’s simple, iconic and thoughtful. When you “get it” it’s all you ever see. I can’t ever see Fedex changing that logo.’

Dave Sedgwick, founder, Designbydave

Andrew Shoben

‘To me, there’s an obvious answer and a not-so-obvious one. Most design that’s long-lived has solved a problem; provided a solution to something that had a design-shaped hole to fill. But some “successful” design survives for other reasons. These designed things are not excellent solutions – it could be that the thing in question stands out because it is everywhere. I’ve never been convinced that the Coca-Cola bottle or the red BT Phonebox are design classics because they did something better than other objects. But they were ubiquitous, familiar, common place, and became “classic” and long-lived because of it.’

Andrew Shoben, founder, Greyworld

Helen Musselwhite

‘I’ve mulled this over and written lots of blousey rubbish but stripped back, what I was really trying to say was that simplicity gives design longevity. The work of Charles and Ray Eames, the Shaker philosophy, the Bauhaus and Case Study houses were all in my mind. A design could be constructed from complex elements or do a complex job but if it’s stripped back to what is absolutely necessary it will last. It’s ironic that when I really thought about your question I should answer it in this way as my illustration is the antithesis of simplicity!’

Helen Musselwhite, illustrator

John Owens

‘I think longevity in design is to avoid the desirable trend, rebel and experiment, Dieter Rams’ work is desirable now, but 60 years ago it looked like it was from outer space, given the environmental context. Spending time on research and development can pay off and some of the most memorable designs have been born out of not only great ideas but experimentation, from Mark Farrow’s iconic Spiritualized packaging to Thomas Heatherwick’s Shanghai Pavilion.’

John Owens, event director, Design Manchester 13

The Design Manchester 13 talks take place on 31 October at Manchester Town Hall, for more information, see our preview here.


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