Extra, ordinary or just normal?
Aug 27, 2011

The discussion platform "Dornbracht Conversations" repeatedly explores contemporary currents straddling design, architecture and art. Early this year the third edition entitled "Extra/Ordinary – A further dimension of the rise of New Normal" examined whether and how the perspective of contemporary design had altered. Two panels attempted to determine where design now stands. Both panel discussions are now available as extensive film documentaries, enabling all those who were not present in Iserlohn to experience the exciting debates.

In the first panel discussion designer Michael Sieger, Mateo Kries, director and chief curator of Vitra Design Museum, and Andreas Dornbracht discussed various issues relating to design history and design evolution. They quickly reached a consensus that "Memphis" was the last major design movement. Since then, that which can be observed are better described as micro movements – such as Droog. Moreover, they concluded, an altered attitude amongst consumers dictates new approaches: "Seldom are our products status symbols these days. The appearance of a product is less relevant. What is important is enjoying the experience a product promises," explains Andreas Dornbracht. And Mateo Kries adds: "Design's mission today is to make daily life manageable. This creates a fundamentally relaxed situation for the acceptance of sustainable products."

In the second panel architect and designer Matteo Thun, creative director Mike Meiré and Stylepark writer and critic Thomas Wagner continued the discussion with a view to a so-called "design normality". The much-cited aesthetics of "new normality" are design's answer to the knowledge and information society, they claim. At the same time, with products such as the iPhone or iPad the appearance of the items takes a backseat while the "content" is assigned greater importance. Mike Meiré: "The exterior is relatively unspectacular, the interior is the exciting thing." Given increasing digitalization, the major task facing design according to Thomas Wagner is "to manage the contradiction between the fact that you do not understand products yet can still use them". So it follows, according to Matteo Thun, that in future design's guiding slogan should be: "Use technology – not dress technology". And that, claimed Marcus Fairs (founder of the design blog dezeen) who moderated the event, is a good thing. Openness and curiosity are the decisive qualities for designers today.