Jacobo Giquel. Design Management. 19010634.
Since the pandemic struck in 2019, there has been growing evidence of critical writing on the subject of anti-design. With reference to five sources, what is your perspective on the Design/Anti-design discourse?
The subject to debate in this essay is Anti-Design, given the rise in its recurrence since the burst of the pandemic.
When looking into the subject on recent times, such as articles or any other form of informative documents, you come to find the availability of these on the internet and other media forms is scarce; there is a beyond satisfactory amount of Anti-Design content but not in the context the brief suggests.
After reading on Anti-Design, I came to realize that it is more a philosophy rather than a movement inherent to a certain discipline or time. In this essay I will expose Anti-Design as a discipline, provide a variety of contemporary examples which I will ponder upon to finally conclude with a solid, personal statement.
Anti-Design as a philosophy.
Anti-Design emerged as a movement in the Italy of the 60s, and it was a response to the 20th Century’s first five decades design which spoke the modernist philosophy vocabulary. It was the vanguard, the avant-garde in the discipline that aimed to renew the cultural and political role of design. Anti-Design in the 60s was a criticism of consumerism, capitalism and excess. This early stage of Anti-Design was characterised by an acid irony on proportions and the sense of beauty and functionality.
Like every philosophy applied to a discipline, if successful, it branches to other fields of study and performance through time, due to an urge for expression, demand or experimentation. Anti-Design in contemporaneity has seen changes from its roots – the changes in society, culture and politics have reshaped the concept through a handful of additions – the philosophy now seeks for transgression, disruption and the audience’s “shock”.
In current times Anti-Design performs as in its early stages only the philosophic taints have been pushed into the background. These movements possess a dichotomic nature, the philosophical trait that characterise them is only required for ignition and once it has become a mainstream and well-known to the mass trend, it strips off the deeper meaning and boils down to the basics in the surface; take for instance Grunge in the 90s.
Contemporary examples and implications.
In the current Zeitgeist Anti-Design is ubiquitous, indeed, the web Anti-Design proposed in the brief is an example of it; ironically, it is more consumed and in demand than ever before.
Anti-Design examples, as a philosophy, can be seen in a wide variety of fields. Thereupon I will tackle three cases which belong to different fields and industries, yet they share the same backbone which they spin around on.
I start off my exposure on contemporary examples with the fashion industry, concretely Balenciaga, the renamed haute couture house. The firm was founded by Cristóbal Balenciaga, a Spaniard 20th Century designer worldly known for the fineness, elegance and sophistication of his garments construction. Despite the designer’s death in 1972, the brand went on producing and selling garments, accessories and perfumes up to current days.
Disregarding its refined birth, Balenciaga vastly differs from its roots’ essence. Now it produces outrageous, out of shape, disproportioned and provocative pieces that seek for the shock of the audience and uniqueness in the market. Imagery:
Balenciaga Fall 2018, Paris Fashion Week.
Balenciaga SS 1967. / Balenciaga SS 2020.
In the last image provided above, the drastic contrast between the designer’s vision and the brand’s current confection is blatantly exposed. Design and Anti-Design respectively.
Magazines can be considered both a piece of art and design. When constructing a magazine, a handful of influencing factors come into play: the cover, the paper’s stiffness and texture, the binding, the template and ultimately the construction, all among other aspects that contribute to the final composition as a whole.
“Closer” is a celebrity magazine highly popular in the UK. This, as any other celebrity magazine you might find at a kiosk, works as a perfect medium to showcase cultural media idols in between publicity and announcements. These come in thin, oversaturated glossy paper held together by staples. The content spins around public sphere characters and their tensions between one another, or a close-up on the life or details of a given celebrity. Imagery:
Closer, issue 913.
Pleasure Garden Magazine SS 2018. / Closer Magazine January 2018 issue.
The two images depicted above, once again, prove the gap between design and Anti-Design. Pleasure Garden is a British Magazine released on monthly issues, gently standing on firm covers which among contain high quality paper printed with beautiful imagery and writing on the cultural meanings and context of the garden.
As Plato said: Music is for the soul what gymnastics to the body. Music is beyond an art and form of expression; music ignites soothing, raging, grieving, happiness or melancholy in the depths of the self.
Anti-Design is present in this form too. Lately the trend of pre-cooked rhythms, ambiguous and unsubstantial lyrics have experienced an arousal. Reggaeton, extremely present and popular – especially in Spanish-speaking countries – is the best example of it.
This genre vastly dissonates from the rhythm and lyricism present in rock, contemporary electronic, flamenco, folk or reggae among many others.
Design and Anti-Design, despite pertaining both to the same discipline, each it’s meant for a different use and function. Whilst design and art perform in the sake of beauty, functionality or aesthetics, Anti-Design plays a ludic role.
The word “function” falls deep into the silk of contemporary society’s subjectivism. Anti-Design has the function of entertaining and shocking us but differently than how design does – and, from my viewpoint, in a less cultural and artistic enriching way.
We, as a society, must be able to differ between enlightenment and leisure, between cognizant and nonchalant, between design and Anti-Design.