Nº 283

The Power of Design

Text: Stephan Ott

Translation: Emily J. McGuffin


“We must learn more”, states Hartmut Esslinger in the interview we conducted with him on the occasion of frog design’s 50th anniversary. That seems like an innocent enough sentence, one likely to whoosh inconsequentially past those who are focused solely on the generation of interest on social media. His whole life long, Esslinger has never been at a loss when it comes to drawing attention to himself, his company and his customers. However, and therein lies the difference, he did so only after grappling intensively with the new possibilities of advanced technologies, generating major interest on the part of clients like Wega, Sony or Apple and ultimately laying the foundation for their later (worldwide) success. In this connection, it was always important to Esslinger to have his own respective vision and the freedom to implement it, as well as the ability to pit his own position against authoritarian structures of any kind.



When we are confronted directly by power, it reveals itself blatantly: in conflicts with state powers, for example, at borders, in the leveraging of economic monopolies or even in a football stadium when the crowd becomes the “twelfth man”. Designers sometimes help to cement these cultural, economic and political powers. Far too often, they do this also in the naive belief that they have actually solved problems. As the example of forensic architecture demonstrates, however, designers can use those same tools to confront the powerful with inconvenient questions and point to an alternative view of supposedly unequivocal events.

In our main focus “The Power of Design”, we especially delve into the less obvious structures of power. We discuss the seductive potential of design in advertising and the media, investigate the presentation of pictures on social media platforms such as Instagram, question the role of so-called prosumers and examine subtle effect mechanisms of design such as nudging.



“We have to project things earlier”, Esslinger advises in the aforementioned interview. Increasingly, fundamental decisions are being made before the design process even begins. That’s reason enough to integrate designers already then and a challenge to us all to examine matters even more thoroughly.

That’s also not the least of the reasons why, beginning with this issue, the rubric previously known as Fairs has been renamed Impulse. Where we previously limited ourselves to previews, from now on we also want to keep you informed with retrospectives on events and discussions as well as insights into the design scene. We are doing this also with the idea in mind of linking our print content more closely from now on with our online activities, for example, our biweekly newsletter.

In this way, we hope to open up additional perspectives on design and in this spirit, we wish you thoroughly stimulating reading.


Stephan Ott, Editor-in-Chief


Nº 284
Region of Design

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