Monday 21 October 2013

Design Versus Functionality

Twenty years ago I considered the word design as an equivalent to the ultimate beauty. At that time I bought the famous spider-like lemon squeezer. To me, it was an object of a stunning exquisiteness. But somehow I had to admit to myself that the lemon squeezer was not really that efficient. So I ended up using my very old, not that impressive but user-friendly lemon squeezer. The “spider” became just a good-looking artefact in our kitchen. 

In my twenties I used to work in several famous Viennese design cafés. I thought that if I have to work in cafés, then at least the surrounding should be esthetical. It was then when I realised that the architects and designers who created these trendy restaurants, cafés and bars haven’t thought a lot about their functionality. Either they used wrong materials, or the working space was not user-friendly. At that point I started to have an aversion to everything that was labelled as “design”. Why should I buy some gorgeous designer shoes when I cannot walk with them properly? Why buy anything beautiful that I cannot use on an everyday basis? Somehow I started seeing design as something extremely impractical. 

It was recently that I realised how very wrong it was to label everything well-designed as unpractical. After all, I am designing and creating ceramics myself. I never thought that I would call myself a designer, but at the end this was what I am doing: designing and creating. Eventually, I attempt my work to be very practical and functional. 

Today I like to think of design as art, or at least as a part of an artistic process. As Giorgio Vasari described some 500 years ago, the disegno (from Latin: designare) is a spectrum of ideas from initial thoughts till the actual visual materialisation. This means, to design, you need both imagination and craftsman’s skills. I came so far to say that design is art. No matter how practical or functional the final product is. It is all about the process of imagination and creation.

My latest design reminded me of my former struggle with my perception of design. I worked many days on this sushi plate. After I took it out of the plaster mould, I realised that I cannot lift the plate up with my fingers. Typical designer plate: beautiful but impractical. After all, how could this happen to me? 

Since I am a very practical person, I made these three small finger holes on both sides of the plate. I am probably going to try few more finger hole alternatives. But for now, I am happy how it looks and that I can finally lift it up.