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.

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