Saturday, November 17, 2007

Designed by who if not a designer?

"This weekend only! Designer housewares 25% off." That's what the ad reads. Designer shoes, clothing, bedding, scrapbooking paper, eyeglasses, and more are routinely advertised, written about, or otherwise featured. But what exactly is a "designer" product? As a designer, this has turned into a mind-boggling question.

Blank paper is a good place to start. Canson and Arches Buff were designed to accommodate certain artistic media such as paint or pastels; ledger sheets were designed to simplify life for accountants and bookkeepers; waxed paper was designed with baking in mind; ink jet paper was designed to work best with ink jet printers... Although each was designed, none is considered to be a designer item. Every single item we own was designed, and therefore had a designer.

The Eames Chair, the Louis Vuitton handbag, Philip Starck cutlery, the Hermes scarf... Why are these considered as "designer" items while the high-quality, beautiful chandelier I bought recently is just a light fixture as opposed to a "designer chandelier"? The chandelier obviously had a designer - and the designer is good enough to be employed by a well-known and respected lighting manufacturer, but still, it is just a chandelier.

On a similarly mind-boggling note, there was recently a house for sale in my area, and the ad read "designer kitchen." I was curious... it's not everyday an ad for a house for sale is worded that way. After some investigating, I learned the cabinets, flooring, and so on, were all purchased from the local big-box hardware store, and there was in fact no designer involved.

We really do have to stop and think: we are referring to mass-produced cabinetry as "designer" stuff, and beautiful, well-designed items as just ordinary things. Designers deserve credit whether their names are household words or not.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The luxuries of design & the design of luxuries

In an average week at least one person makes a comment to me along the lines of, "Ooh! You're an interior designer - what a luxurious job!" And I never know quite how to respond. On one hand it is a luxury, but simply because I love what I do. On the other hand, it really isn't so luxurious sometimes to be responsible for other people's homes or businesses, money, and even their own perceptions of the finished project.

Looking at this from another point of view, I have to wonder if it is being implied that I am a provider of a luxury service. Interior design is not a luxury. Is it a luxury to have a work environment that accommodates all necessary equipment and supplies, tasks, and people? Is it a luxury to have a kitchen designed to take into consideration your right- or left-handedness, and shopping and cooking habits?

Interior design, or rather good interior design, is first and foremost about function - then come the luxuries and aesthetics. Yes, it certainly is a luxury to be in a space done in your favourite colours and motifs, and yes, it is a luxury to go home at the end of the day to a beautiful house. But it is not a luxury to make sure you're doing something right once you have made the decision that you will be doing it.