In a recent N.Y. Times article, writer Allison Arieff laments that industrial designers have created too many precious, useless objects and calls for a return to “problem-solving” design. The article’s spirit is right in keeping with the cycling business trend towards commuter, cruiser and cargo bikes.
Maybe one way the recession as good for design is to see it not as a form of punishment for frivolous designers but rather as an opportunity to allow for a rethinking of design itself — and the role of the designer within it.
This rethinking needs to come not just from designers but from the manufacturers, companies and other clients who decide what products and projects will be produced. There’s no excuse not to examine and re-examine what’s made, how it’s manufactured, what materials are used (and which are recyclable), what benefit it’s giving the consumer (or lack thereof) and what contribution, if any, it’s making to anything other than landfill.
Arieff’s article places the bicycle industry’s reconsideration of its product lines in the context of a larger societal shift towards more sensible, practical products. Anyone who has seen the latest crop of utility bikes can agree that “The work that springs from this sort of questioning does not have to sacrifice beauty for utility, vision for practicality.”