The Evil of Furniture
On a designer losing his way and finding new hope: A contemporary anthropological look at the year 2020
Prof. Jonathan Ventura
We stand at the threshold of a new era, an era of consolation, reparation and atonement. Having played a key contribution in pollution increase, material overflow and addiction to the charms of consumption, we must harness our talent, made irrelevant, for the benefit of humankind. It is time for designers to atone for their many sins and to help heal the global scars which have almost led us to an unprecedented disaster. It is time to define a post-design era (Georgevic, 2038: 129).
From the wasteland that symbolized the End of Design era, a new hope emerged. A new generation of des-leaders (design-leaders) blessed a field that suffered a terrible image with a brand-new halo. They called for the return to manual labor and to an engagement with their community and indeed society as a whole (Pradesh, 2043: 213).
Scholars began to refer to the period of 2030-2040 as the "lost decade," following the ground-breaking book by the philosopher of object culture, Theodora Schultz (Schultz, 2041). This expression encapsulates the loss of marketing, consumer and moral values that have de facto forced designers to redefine the very essence of their profession. Following the collapse of the Western world, primarily caused by consumption surplus, loneliness, the death of liberalism and democracy, civil wars and global flows of refugees, the design world was forced to rethink its position. This time, it would not stand as part of the problem, but as a relevant, practical solution. Leaving behind the trends of craft and limited editions of overpriced designer goods, they cleared the way for new kinds of designed objects to emerge. The great Finnish thinker Aalotar Hämäläinen described this significant change as "a period when designers redefined the relationship between society, culture and the material world" (2043: 309).
Recent discoveries offer a fascinating insight into the material culture of the post-designed human at the start of the fifth decade of the second millennium (AD). The renowned material anthropologist Vuicek (2031), author of How Designers Lost their Way, calls the period in which he wrote "The Evil of Furniture" and describes the latter as a pivotal era that saw the world of design engulfed in a sea of meaningless objects, eventually leading to what he calls "the End of Design era". The unbridled hyper-consumerism of the 2020s, fostered by the linear evolution of electrical appliances and the falling prices of industrial goods, flooded the world with relatively new trash and drastically depleted the world's resources (de Trauville, 2035).
The same generation of designers who had launched the movement, accumulating social and economic prestige in the process, began to sink into murky depression, paving the way for a wave of suicides. Particularly worthy of remembrance is the renowned Danish designer Alex Bergson, who in early October 2028 committed suicide by hanging himself from a light fixture by early designer Ingo Maurer. A note reading ‘there is no design, only things’, was discovered in his personal possession. Later, a wave of spontaneous mass protests against designers and architects put an end to the golden age of design and led to a transitional period known as “the days of material transition" (see Olafsön, 2037).
Indeed, products by designers such as P. Starcke or J. Ives, displayed in several major museums of the History of Material Destruction, illustrate the global sense of confusion and numbness that led numerous consumers to experience bottomless dissatisfaction and look for other addictive substances.
The exhibition we are hereby documenting inscribes itself within a much-needed movement calling for designers to redefine their path; to take several steps back and re-establish their relation with their culture and the society in which they create; and to re-examine the historical context in which these objects are rooted. Among the objects on display is a poem titled "The End of Furniture," which was discovered inside a digital file dating back to 2020 and describing the end of design. Researchers believe (see notably Herschel's research, 2036) that the poem metaphorically describes the designer's sins and the dangers inherent in the endless pursuit of material wealth that characterized Western life at the beginning of the third millennium. Together, these findings offer the best illustration to date of how designers lost their way in that period. Wooden objects are combined with what might be identified as shoes, or early archaeological artefacts that are yet to be identified. All these anthropomorphic and zoomorphic objects illustrate both the devaluation of the designed object and the established hierarchy of class, material, and design proper to the ancient world. These innovative objects reinforce in our mind the historical importance of the End of Design era, as it allowed for the emergence of a previously outlawed conception of the design profession. One can only welcome the decision to return to an era of reflection and cultural/social relevance, which form the premise for a new path of design. It is with a peaceful heart that we can now state that the dark era of Early Design is over. Let us welcome and inaugurate a new essence.
de Trauville, A. (2035). Designed Mass Catastrophe: Learning Responsibility. Manchester: Working Press.
Georgevic, P. (2038). We the Sinners: How Design Destroyed our World. Berlin: Vox Populi Press.
Hämäläinen, A. (2043). Culture, Society and Materiality: Designing After the Apocalypse. Helsinki: Aalto Foundation Press.
Herschel, B. (2035). New Material Findings: The 2020 Findings. New York: Activist Press.
Ölafson, I. (2037). Maxims: A Later Chronology of the Material Transition Era. Oslo: Mirabilis Publishing.
Schultz, T. (2042). Lost Ways, Regained Materiality. Zurich: Frei Material Idee.
Pradesh, C. (2042). The Fall and Rise of the Social Designer in Post-Disaster Europe. Ahmedabad: National Institute of Design Press.
Vuicek, V. (2031). How Designers Lost their Way. Warsaw: St. Martin’s Publishing Inc.