Hello. I’m Sun Woo Kim, majoring in Illustration and Visual Media.
This is the first time I’m hearing about the term ‘anti-design’, and therefore, it took time to grasp the general idea of the movement and it was a little difficult to understand the concept at first. However, after reading articles and researching related artists, I found one aspect of Anti-Design movement that I’m particularly interested in: How the movement was about being against consumerism, mass production and designers’ greediness in Modernism period. As a result, design objects from ‘Radical Design Period’ (which is an another word for Anti-Design movement) were represented by its unique style with exaggerated forms and vivid colours which was the opposite of Modernism design. While Modernist stood by ‘form should be followed by functionality', designers who supported the Anti-Design movement were much more interested in changing people’s traditional ideas on objects. By applying the irony and Kitsh style, the ultimate goal was to criticise consumers who buy mass produced objects and to send them a message to think carefully and question their purchases.
After learning about these, I reflected on these ideas and realised I also value functionality over form when I shop. For example, when I’m choosing a kettle, I first consider how quickly it can boil water, rather than its colour and form. However, there are times when I do the opposite. When I want something, rather than need something, colour and form are more important than functionality. In other words, I’m considering to spend my money on something I probably don’t need because I like how it looks. After this realisation I questioned the designer’s role and their social responsibility. Should a designer design objects to respond to people’s needs or wants?
How do we find a balance between creating wants for our artworks and not supporting consumerism?
What does it mean to create design objects in a unique style without encouraging consumerism?
Then, I looked into a definition of ‘designer’. What does a designer do? According to the book ‘Design as Art’, the term ‘Designer’ was first used in America. “It does not refer to an industrial designer, who designs machines or mechanical parts, workshops or other specialised buildings. He is in fact a design engineer, …” and the author continues with “designer knows that the ultimate form of the object is psychologically vital when the potential buyer is making up his mind.”
According to Bruno Munari, ’Designers’ are someone who connect consumer’s mind and aesthetics of objects. They chooses a certain colour and a certain form to convince people to like their objects. In fact, they are more concerned about people’s wants than needs.
All these points led me to the term ‘Anti-Consumerism’, which has many aspects such as sustainability, criticisms of the fast-fashion industry, over-priced products, etc. However they all say the same message; to carefully consider every factor when purchasing. Do I really need this? Does the market trick me into thinking I need this? Who is profiting from my purchase? If I try to translate the questions from a designer’s perspective, it will be something like, Do consumers really need this?, Is it okay to trick them into buying something they don’t need?, Is there someone else earning money from my design products?.
As a student majoring in Illustration and Visual Media, I wanted to look into artists working with their visual language to question themselves or to send a message to society.
There was a time when cheap-material, and cheap-production process in order to make the most profit in the shortest time were considered the best, and in many cases, they still are. However, I see more and more of big and small design companies making changes in this for more important issue. I believe no matter in what position you are in the design process, we all are capable of sending a right message to consumers.
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