Should design develop to become more like art？
Human beings are looking forward to the future naturally, it is a crucial factor that contributes to the continuous prosperity of human society. “Homo prospectus” is a concept proposed by an American psychologist, Martin E.P. Seligman. He believes that people should not call themselves “homo sapiens” (wise man). Seligman suggests human’s main unique characteristics and advantages is not the application of knowledge and learn better than other species, perhaps is because of
human’s ability of frame the future, imagine the future and create the future. The yearning for the future, in other word is imagination, which makes people more creative. Designers and artists, as more imaginative and creative groups of human beings, have contributed a lot to the past and present, for example, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution which had played an important role in the course of human history. Within this context, from emerging a concept to the final outcome, this entire practice of design and art is a process of pursuing the future. Our future is inseparably related to design and art, this brings up the question of what will design look like in 10, 100 or 1000 years? The following writing attempts to argue and explore about the possibility of the future of furniture design by discussing the blur boundary between art and design through referencing representative examples from the past and present like IKEA, Andy Warhol and Marcel Wanders.
In the 21st century, the boundaries between design and art are becoming more and more blurred. From the point of view of defining design and art, we can say that their definitions are quite different even though its sharing a lot common point. but the reason for the trend of gradually blurred integration of art and design seems inevitable. Some people suggest that designers should think as business man but not considering themselves as artist. An artist expresses through the arts, a designer visualises the solution of problems, they give a clear demarcation between art and design.
Designers are neither artists nor service providers, “We should position ourselves as professionals. This is what I have always insisted on.” Chinese architect Jiajian Liang said. “How many times have I said that I am not an artist and I am a designer?” Japanese interior designer Masamichi Katayama claims that his responsibility is to help clients to solve problems, not to express himself through works. As what Jiajian Liang and Masamichi Katayama said, designers should be professionals who solve problems for customers. From ancient times to the present, whether clothing, furniture or ordinary daily necessities, these items only exist to meet people’s needs for practical functions and solve problems, such as clothes(a leaf or few) was purely for the protection of privacy, people sitting on comfortable chairs rather than on a solid rock like primitive man. But human’s demands are more than that, people are looking forward to beauty even on these daily necessities, at the same time it is also affecting our aesthetics virtually. For example, in order to solve the problem of sitting (chair), the furniture industry was born, and in order to address the issue of wearing, the clothing industry was born. The increasingly rapid development of these industries is not simply because they have solved our basic needs of being warm in winter and cool in summer, but because they has been leading the fashion aesthetic and also meets customers’ existing aesthetics demand. Through people’s progress in all aspects, artefacts that purely satisfy practical functions by proficient skilled craftsman and designer are gradually beautified. It is at this time that aesthetics is transformed from practical used, and aesthetics becomes the main demand of this time. Moreover, the continuous improvement of aesthetic consciousness and the human nature yearns for beautiful things brings the birth of a profession for “serving beauty”, art. Thus, designs seem need to express different values that more than functions.
Canadian anthropologist Lionel Tiger suggests that art and design are the same, They are all expressing people’s wishes and ideals, which is the process of creating the future. Consumer groups look at design, the first glance is not at the function, but at the values conveyed by the design itself. Jeans are now the most common type of pants in the world. People wear them in fashionable streets and alleys. In the early days, however, the willow nail twill denim trousers was designed for durability and wear resistance reason for local miners and workers in the western United States. Nowadays, Thousands of dollars of Gucci and Loewe jeans are consumed by young people, which may be the workers’ monthly wages. The existence of this irrational consumption is not due to the convenience and practicability of the products, but a yearning and recognition of beauty. Designing to express life style and status has always been the pursuit and principle of the clothing industry. However, this principle does not simply exist in this industry, such as a chair (furniture design), which was originally born to solve the problem of sitting. Because of the local culture and history, it has developed into different styles, Nordic furniture, Chinese furniture, African furniture. In the 21st century, with the rapid development of globalisation, a set of European furniture can be seen in many Asian families. However, in some European families, the European furniture that should exist is replaced by ordinary tables and chairs like IKEA for practical use. This is due to the need to go beyond the function of the product itself, that is, the need for beauty.
An example of a successful furniture design retailer, IKEA, is the world’s largest furniture retailer founded at Sweden in 1943. In this 76 years, there are 424 IKEA stores ate operated in 52 countries, in fiscal year 2018, 38.8 billion euro worth of IKEA products were sold. Their success is beyond all doubts, but it is not so much a furniture retailer but more like a “aesthetic seller”. The furniture designed by IKEA can be positioned as IKEA’s Nordic style furniture, is seen as a representative of the Nordic style (minimal, elegant), which has been very popular among consumers in the last 2 decades. Due to the success of IKEA sales and the loyal consumer base, the products created by IKEA have largely influenced the aesthetics of consumers and even the aesthetics of people surrounds them. IKEA seems to be indirect to establish an aesthetic style of their own. The birth of the IKEA style has a reason, “To create a better everyday life for the majority of people” from The Testament of a Furniture Dealer (1976) by the founders of IKEA Ingvar Kamprad. it shows clearly that Kamprad was concerned about the uneven distribution of resources and the waste of resources and the division of social classes. What he wanted to do is to make the world as democratic as possible. At the beginning of IKEA’s founding, Kamprad believed that low price was the way to survive. In order to set the low price, the cost of their products is considered throughout the process. He even said that transporting air (In the 1950s, IKEA launched a campaign to reject air transportation. The furniture was designed to be flat foldable and assembled by customers after they drove home) is a waste for them. IKEA tried to find ways to improve its product design so that more consumers can afford it (this process been called as “optimising the value chain”). Because of the reduction of cost and the need for more economical materials, from emerging a new idea to the further design, production and transportation of products, the concept of cost does not leave the entire process of operating IKEA at all. The economic benefits of materials make the style limited. The design of IKEA is not only influenced by Swedish culture, but also by its own cost control, If “Ikea” is a designer, businessman is best to describe. For the production of products, priority is always given to cost and profitability, while beauty is an accessories. The overflow of this style that are not prioritised in the design process, whether in terms of turnover or popularity, it once represented IKEA’s success. But with the change of society, it seems that this is not conducive to the development of generals’ aesthetics. As in the course of human development, demand on a product has been further enhanced. Aesthetic appreciation of the bourgeoisie and middle-class families, which occupy the vast majority of the social group base, the trend of their tastes, led by these mass-oriented designs, has slowly changed. The needs of the post-80s and post-90s, these two powerful groups as the dominant consumer groups have also changed. The economic base determines (Marx), with the improvement of customer’s living standard, people’s tendency and demand for beauty has increase. Higher aesthetic judgment led to the requirement for interior and furniture is no longer just for good use like a gear in the living machine”,“Une maison est une machine-à-habiter” (A house is a machine for living in “,a concept proposed by Le Cobusier in 1920s), but for fun and beauty, the public need more than a IKEA.
According to the previous example, IKEA furniture does not give priority to beauty, which is very different from artist’s way of expression. However, Is it really incompatible with art if the design wants to succeed? Andy Warhol, one of the most famous artists in the 20th century and the advocate and leader of pop art， set a successful precedent of business-art, which is good combination of aesthetics and Commerce. He believes that business and beauty can coexist. “Business art is the step that comes after art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. During the hippie era people put down the idea of business. They’d say “money is bad” and “working is bad”. But making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art.”. Warhol called his studio a factory, abandoned handcrafted and more use of assembly line production, he was making art like running a manufacture business. However, using this method of doing silkscreen print is what makes him so great. “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Warhol predicted, Andy once said that department stores are museums of the new era and shopping will become the favourite of people in the next century. his works gradually associated with pop culture and consumption, the most popular daily items, pop stars even the president of China appear in his art in a mass production way, this perfectly present his persistence of this concept.
Andy Warhol’s works began to redefine the concept and boundaries of art. Follow-up people began to use a variety of common design and daily necessities to create, his succeed showed people the new possibility of integration of art and business. Dutch designer Marcel Wanders is another great example of putting commercial and design together which closer to the current design industry. He is the most popular, productive, influential and profitable designer in today’s design world. However, he used to say design is dead. “The industry has given us so many great things, but it has also stolen a few great things from us, like the personality of objects. Product designers should make fantasies real.” He thinks design should not just be a design that solves problem, from his design, It can be seen that he is eager to create an artistic atmosphere besides functionality, this makes people’s personality, taste, preferences and feelings, are perfectly displayed in every product. The perfect combination of sculpture and household goods highlights the modern sense and atmosphere. “I’m going to steal your potential consciousness from your minds and weave a story and fantasy for you, because I’m using what you already know, so your reaction will be stronger.” However, he is not rebelliously express his inner world with no reason but purposefully giving the “dead” design a sense of art and beauty which is the key in his success.
Aesthetics is the product of human development at a certain stage. In the early stage of human life, the pressure of survival overwhelmed everything. Just as the working class was busy with their livelihood, most people had no time to consider beauty. Entering the next stage, beauty becomes demand, and this product promotes people’s development to the next stage at the same time. With the change of life style brought about by the acceleration of commercialization, home is no longer a house and living machine, furniture in the home is no longer like gear in the machine, exists purely for functional use. But when tired, leaning on the soft beautiful sofa, looking around and feeling comfortable like in a gallery, surrounding by the beautiful thing that we yearns for. Most consumer groups begin to consider their demand for beauty when choosing products, IKEA furniture in everyone’s family does not give individual uniqueness and value, like many of today’s electronic products, such as mobile phones, may be updated every few months. These are products that can be discarded at any time but things that make prople desire for perpetual preservation like a beautiful oil paintings.
To sum up, designers shoulder a social mission, which can bring a certain degree of aesthetic impact to the audience that has close connection with the progress of human society. Entering the mid-21st century, from the perspective of social responsibility, design works should have a function and responsibility of conveying beauty, rather than simply solving practical problems. The future of design might have a increasingly blurred boundary with art. In the market-oriented environment, art and design coexist and complement each other. Art can enhance the commercial value of design products and the value of consumers’ quality of life, and it needs to enter the public through the carrier of design commerce. Design commerce needs the embellishment of art to infect the public. The trend of furniture design in the future may present the integration of tradition and modernity, inheritance and innovation, art and design. In these contradictions, current furniture designers or future furniture designers should deal with and think dialectically and make bold innovative exploration.