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Text: Stephan Ott

Translation: Emily J. McGuffin


Criticism is allowed to be sharp – though many of its victims may not like it – as long as it is profound. This applies also to design criticism. What the newly revived digital station ZDFkultur is currently offering under the title “Design and Punishment”, however, is amazingly superficial. These three to four minute features are presented by philosopher and design theoretician Florian Arnold, though the concept of design – as their very motto, “Is it art or should it go?” shows – remains vague. Not only does Arnold himself not seem quite to know what a flamingo room fountain has to do with design; when it came to the PC designed by Luigi Colani (1993) the prop was  obviously not in a state to provide the matching keyboard and mouse, or at least the combined set with screen supplied by Vobis at the time; and as for the Juicy Salif lemon squeezer (Philippe Starck, 1990), which has truly been thoroughly slammed by the critics, there would have been no harm in assuming a glass underneath. “Philosophic, witty, malicious and devastating – the best design diss which the web has seen”, writes Arnold in an a blurb which he wrote himself. Perhaps, to prevent the senseless destruction of broadcast features, a glance at his own design diss[ertation] might have helped. It bears the title “Logic of Design” and is certainly applicable to moving-picture formats.



The observation of the object alone has long been insufficient in the design process (and in its criticism). Which brings us already to the subject of simulation, our focal theme in this edition. Holger van den Boom observed on the occasion of the IDZ Congress “Simulation and Reality” (1987) that simulation, “unlike the model” was “not object-oriented but user-oriented”. What may have surprised the majority of designers at that time is nowadays common practice, whether in user experience, the generation of virtual worlds traffic planning or urban developments.




Hand in hand with the orientation towards the user goes inevitably the questioning of stereotypes and systemic standards, which – if we've come this far – can be well illustrated by another of Florian Arnold's diss victims. The first generation Fiat Multipla, which is stoned in “Design and Punishment” for its appearance alone, was one of the items in an exhibition entitled “The Appeal of Reason” held in 1999 at the London Design Museum, precisely because its designers had escaped from the standardised one-box construction, thus offering users of the minivan the latest technical and ergonomic developments. A second glance is often helpful, as Thomas Edelmann recommended at that time in his essay on the Multipla in the Design Report.    

In this edition too it is time to say some goodbyes: Carolin Blöink, Jessica Krejci and Franziska Porsch have in the past years worked to give form its most characteristic features. We would like to thank them and wish them all the best. At the same time we are glad to welcome Nina Sieverding und Anton Rahlwes most cordially to our editorial team.


Stephan Ott, Editor-in-Chief


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