Design and Identity

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Guest Post by: Laszlo Kövari

There are two types of design representing two poles of a spectrum: one of them is based on “what is”, the other is based on principles, so its function is to enable the emergence of “what should be”.

The first one we may call “design by identity” the second one maybe called “design without identity”, to use very simple terms.

Design by identity statically or dynamically depicts dominant tendencies; not only in a sense of “showing” them, but by representing them.

The representatives of this design don’t try to understand the causes of trends and tendencies and they never question their validity. They simply recognize the trends and identify with them; they do this by a passive identification, whereby they give themselves to them; in other words such designers are dominated by various trends and tendencies. Due to a lack of understanding the focus is exclusively on the physical plane; this means among other things that the first step in “getting started” is imitation, and success to a large degree depends on senseless excess and the refusal of any control (e.g. Warhol, Trump, Hirst, Lagerfeld, Berlusconi, etc.).

Forward thinking in this context may only be considered to be a negative trait.

The combination of such a passivity, lack of (willingness to) understanding and the blind identification with trends and tendencies has culminated in a celebrity culture in all domains, including modern art, architecture, fashion, advertising, general business, etc. It is interesting to note that not only do the celebrated representatives of design by identity exhibit very similar behavior, they even tend to look very similar; not only are their works undifferentiated this lack of distinction extends to their appearance as well. While the perceived context for action maybe individualism the end result is inevitably sub-individual on all fronts. This extreme may not even be called a “pole” position because it is always changing;  the decline is infinite.

The other pole of the spectrum is design without identity. This one really enjoys a pole position, meaning that no active representation of it is known. This type of design is true art, meaning that both the process of performing the art (ritual) and the end result of the ritual helps transcending the character of the designer, the performer and horribile dictu the “audience” as well. Such artists have no name, they are the exact opposite of celebrities. Examples of such rituals are the cathedrals, icon paintings, Gregorian chants, the performances in ancient Greek theater, even an organic State (where roles and functions are in analogy to the masks of the actors in the theater).

As we mentioned design without identity enables the emergence of what should be: the pure, uncorrupted manifestation of various aspects of principles. The artist is active, alert and victorious in the sense of conquering higher realities, so to speak.

There are various levels between these two poles. All design initiatives that take a particular principle as their foundation, meaning that they “align” to such principles maybe considered to be in the higher echelon, all initiatives that take the highly limited individual as their foundation are in the lower domain of the hierarchy.

Image source: kevindooley

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