The Next Great Era of Design
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution we were coming out of an era where production was the domain of the craftsman. Ordinary objects were artful, durable, and meant to be respected for their worth as well as function. As goods became mass produced, much of the flourish and decoration added by the craftsman was reproduced in the factory made product to let the consumer know that even though the thing wasn't hand made, it still had value. This was the age of Industrial Arts.
As the pace of life moved faster we entered the era of streamlined design, form follows function -- Bauhaus, Prairie Style, Mission Style, Mod, Pop, Futuristic -- smooth elegant lines, bold shapes, fun, playful, sleek. All of these ideas were there the palette of the new age of Industrial Design.
But something happened as life raced though the 1900's. As the century screamed to a close, form and the function became slaves to the sticker price. Quality, aesthetics, fit and finish, all of these ideas were abandoned to hit that ever lower number. But that wasn't all that was abandoned. Integrity, fairplay, stewardship, these ideals got tossed by the wayside too as companies leveraged loopholes and backdoor subsidies found in lax environmental regulations, inhuman worker laws, and artificially cheap energy. Poverty became ever more entrenched for most, even as living standards improved for many. Whole eco-systems were collapsing. And there was nowhere to go but down.
Thankfully, that's not the end of the story, today we're watching the dawn of a new era. It's not been announced officially (not that there IS a way to announce an era officially), but it is none the less happening.
Governments, companies, designers and consumers are waking-up to embrace new products, services and ideas that deliver on the promises they make. Things that aren't just all surface beauty, or brief functionality, but truly innovative and useful. And, most importantly, were created with all stakeholders in mind -- including ones not destined to be born for some time yet.
So though it's not "official", and even the idea of naming a Design Era is a Western-centric one, plus we CERTAINLY have a loooong way to go before it's done -- there are many of us that are not shy in saying the early 21st century is marking the NEXT GREAT ERA OF DESIGN -- Sustainability.
You heard it here first...
>1800's > Industrial Arts
Rise of Literacy, Mass production, Empowerment of Consumer.
>1900's > Industrial Design
Equal Rights, Rise of Middle Class, Unbridled Consumption.
>2000's > Sustainable Design
Harmony of Design Reason and Balance.
Natural Capital, Systems Thinking, Realignment of Impacts and Ethics.
Never having to say you're sorry.