The work of a designer has consisted in giving shape to functions, objects and ideas that later comprise a consumption market as services, products and messages. If these forms usually respond to technological, economic or social change, often designers work over typologies that have remained untouched over generations.
But the functions of the past, the needs of present and the choices of future rarely converge – after all, we are all creatures of our time. The flood of products, services and messages we are bombarded with on daily basis convinces us that our material desires will never be fully realised, even if everything seems to have been invented, designed. We will always want something more. But what do we really need?
Is the work of a designer to find that “something else”? To identify those needs and add a new service, product or message, adding also economic and cultural value to the market/society it will be part of? Is this “added value” a – perhaps the only? – timeless feature of the design process?
The results of a designer’s work do not exist in a vacuum – nor just in an exhibition gallery. They are part of a complex process of production, distribution, marketing, promotion and consumption, where factors such as the product’s user/usage, materials, manufacturing processes, distribution and lifecycle are taken into account. In the case of a Portuguese designer (designing for her own country), her work may also contemplate the history, climate, traditions and habits of use, culture and other national idiosyncrasies to achieve successful results.
For the Portuguese section of Timeless we wanted to know how we can learn from Portuguese designs of the twentieth century to better design, in Portuguese, in the twenty-first century. For that we invited seven young Portuguese designers and studios to choose a product, service or message designed in Portugal over the twentieth century, which they considered relevant in terms of its quality and longevity. Secondly, we challenged them to present new designs – new values – from the same typology or universe of use.
These seven opportunities for dialogue between different artifacts, authors and generations – joined at the Lisboa, EXD’09 website by the reflections of Aurelindo Jaime Ceia and Eduardo Afonso Dias, “veterans” of both the practice and teaching of design in Portugal – are not here presented as finished products, nor as timeless solutions for the needs of the Portuguese. They are rather starting points for a discussion encompassing the visitors of this exhibition, the event/institution that promotes it and all the players, scholars and other parties interested in Portuguese design – be it in the state, industry/trade, culture, academia or the media – and its potential added values.
Rita João e Pedro Ferreira + Frederico Duarte
Eduardo Afonso Dias
Aurelindo Jaime Ceia
Click here for more info and complementary reading.