Starting from a simple stone ax, throughout the history we created a man-made environment, to survive and control the world we are living in and designed tools with great sophistication to achieve this goal. Considering the modern cities that we live in, they reflect the man-made nature that we created for ourselves, including everything from street signs to garbage cans and from the skyscrapers even to the streets we pass by every day.
Not everything is a good design, but everything we see around is designed by someone. Although we are almost granted for a good design, the world always needs an improvement from designers’ perspective, there is always something to rethink over. I think designers always imagine something could be made better than whatever it is now. Rethinking, researching and taking advantage of new technologies of production with the idea that they are making a better telephone, or screwdriver or an airplane to make life simpler and easier. They are trying to solve problems, from minor improvements to big problems of the world, one iteration at a time.
Best designs are invisible, they blend into the world. To quote Dieter Rams, “good design is as little design as possible”. We are now in the position of being able to take good design more or less for granted. Well designed, well made and affordable products became the givens of advanced capitalism. But good design is the product of a complex rich history in which the definition of design and the role and status of the designer have changed many times because of capitalism, industrialization, mass production, wars, our world view, and so on. The design has tended to respond every change in these global trends and we can claim that it reflects an alternate history of the modern world.
In order to understand the relationship between our everyday life and the objects we are surrounded by, I think it is crucial to have a basic understanding of this alternate history written by designers and the driving forces behind them. You may ask as Why should I care about design history, it is already past? I would argue that in order to be a great designer, one should have a wide visual vocabulary and history gives us that. For this reason and to be helpful for fellow designers, in these series, I will try to summarize this history of design and talk about the milestones that are worth mentioning. The points mentioned will be mostly related to industrial design and visual communication design but the periods and milestones can easily be used as references for other design disciplines.
So after this introduction let’s dive into this exciting and informative adventure. I am sure you will finish these blog posts with more appreciation for some of the great designers in the past and these notes will spark your curiosity to dig deeper.