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Design Review: Volume 2, Issue 6 (May-June 1950)

Know your enemies

Know your enemies

It is a wise plan to get to know whom you are fighting. The hostile forces ranged against good design are these:

Indifference is so negative that it is hard to combat. Men and women who are fully conscious of literature, music or painting are totally indifferent to signwriting, the type on a printed sheet, or to modern furniture design.

Cheapness First is a popular selling point not because it saves our pockets, but on the contrary empties them. Good quality products last too long to be profitable, whence arises the linkage of cheap and nasty. The astute businessman avoids the term “cheap” and prefers “low-priced”.

Many objects have crystallised into an accepted form, for good reasons. The commercial consideration Unnecessary Novelty redesigns the naturally round face of a clock into a square.

There is a snobbish fear that a plain thing may be mistaken for a cheap thing, so De Luxe Glory in the form of imitating expensive materials or sticking on ornament not only adds selling points but helps to camouflage bad work.

It seems unfair to number Mass Production among the enemies of design; far from being bad it is the means to realise an age of plenty. Mass production is still producing goods in imitation of the craftsman's wares, instead of employing new designs for new methods of production.

The cult of Arty-Crafty is responsible for the horrors of “Ye Olde Worlde”. They are almost as objectionable as “Ultra-Modernism”, armoured in chromium plate and faintly suggestive of Cubism, particularly popular with those whose homes are likely to be photographed for social publicity.

Strange to say, the most insidious enemy of good design is Logical Approach. We delude ourselves in thinking that man is a reasoning animal; he is full of illogical instincts. He does odd unaccountable things and collects odd unaccountable objects round him. What he feels about a thing counts for much more than what he thinks about it.

Contributions & Letters to the Editor

The Editor is always glad to consider any contributions. Where possible, they should be accompanied by photographs of the illustrations suggested. Original works of art should not be sent unless requested. For the purposes of reproduction, glossy photographs are preferable, and contributors are reminded that the appearance of good objects can be easily ruined by bad photography.

Letters to the Editor and contributions should be addressed to The Editor, Design Review, 71 Hatton Street Ext., Wellington, W.3. accompanied by a stamped addressed envelope. If written under a pen-name, the writer must enclose his name and address.


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