Just stay calm
by Luz Kathrin | Oct 11, 2010
All photos © Dimitrios Tsatsas, Stylepark

The book "Design is a nervous thing" presents projects by "Satellite", an "Office for Cooperation in Higher Education Research and Industry" that is docked onto Stuttgart's State Academy of Visual Arts. Editor is Uwe Fischer, who is a designer, ex-Ginbande design member, professor at the said academy, and "Satellite" founder. The publication "describes in part the activities, processes and positions of the ‘Satellite', which was established in 2007 as an interdisciplinary research station and installed at the Stuttgart Academy as a working platform and additional site for academic instruction. The aim was to establish a laboratory in which young designers could conceive and realize specific and visionary projects together with representatives from the worlds of business, industry and culture" - at least this is how the book cover describes the promising content.

It seems reasonable to suspect that this is about hands-on experience, process research and pilot projects in contemporary design production. In other words a kind of "playpen" for would-be design experts, not for nothing installed in the highly traditional and innovation-friendly German state of Swabia. This suspicion is borne out when you read the - doubtless substantive - essay by Petra Schmidt, known as an eminent authority in design at the latest since her time at form in the years from 1999 to 2007. Knowledgeably and imaginatively she once again describes the promising range of reflection on design precisely in those years with the appropriation of the concept of process. And she follows (not without nostalgia) the species of the designer in their "regressive" development from inspired creator to technocratic problem-solver. In doing so she is happy to cite art, but unfortunately overlooks the fact that the latter, with the occasional "Rehbergization" of many of its manifestations, has long since broken with design again. But never mind.

The text legitimizes the book, the book presents its images, and the images replace the text. Or maybe they don't? The publication is a prime example of how images and text compete for the main role in the book as stage - and intimidates the reader in the process. "Yellow is the new pink" - proclaimed trend researcher Lee Edelkoort last year, and who knows the mass-psychological influence of the current fashion colors better than she does? This publication by the Stuttgart Academy is also covered yellow, or rather put under yellow wraps. It flashes at you like a bright warning signal, but unfortunately it does not really warn you about the inadequacies inside - be it the many small images, which are only explained toward the back of the book, or the large, space-wasting typography orchestration full of recurring clichéd exercises, be it the micro-texts and textlets (which precisely when they are about interesting details do not explain enough), be it the differently cut paper that is occasionally thick and rigid, and makes casual leafing through the book absolutely impossible. All of this makes it difficult to use the book for enjoyable reading. How agreeable by comparison the relatively large number of generous, calming white spaces.

Where the book is really enjoyable is when it traces the one or other project. For example, you find out how you can grill delicious steaks on 500-watt DIY bulbs, how to vamp up your old Black Forest clock or what new industrial applications for espresso machines might look like. One thing certainly comes across: "Satellite" itself is a very praiseworthy undertaking, ideally suited to sensitizing young designers in whom in the best case real talent slumbers for the idea of process, that flow is needed for things to be created and be successful, that everything is and always remains part of the whole. But what a pity that the process of the book's creation was evidently extremely nervous. There again, making books is also something that will be learned, it is also part of a process with an endless number of options and you must take care not to get lost in them.

Design is a nervous thing
Edited by Uwe Fischer
Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart
Satellit / Institut für Buchgestaltung and Medienentwicklung
Paperback, 190 pages, ISBN: 978-3-942144-05-6

All photos © Dimitrios Tsatsas, Stylepark