Hella Jongerius: I am a design pastor

The Dutch designer outlines six guiding principles for designers to embrace in order to regain a holistic approach to their work.

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Dutch industrial designer Hella Jongerius used her talk at Design Indaba Conference 2015 to introduce a series of concerns and pleas to the design community and its consumers on the lost values of design. These statements would eventually be published as her design manifesto “Beyond the New”, which was written with critic Louise Schouwenberg and published on designindaba.com prior to its distribution at Milan Design Week 2015.

The design community is divided between merchants and pastors, said Jongerius to the Design Indaba Conference audience.

“The merchants are focussed on commerce, the pastors on ethics. I am a design pastor and today I step out of the closet.”

Her talk was an appeal to designers and consumers to search for better ideals in design that promote quality over profit.

Jongerius claims to be fighting against a current of desire for “newness” in our consumer culture, stating that modern society is driven by marketing houses that look to promote profits over good principles in design and encourage consumers to purchase new things all the time.

There is too much shit design, she famously proclaimed.

In response to this unhealthy shift within the design industry Jongerius asked that we look back at the history of industrial design, which began so iconically with the Bauhaus Movement as a way of making quality available to the masses.

“Along the way we seem to have lost that quality. Somewhere along the way the main value has become economic profit.”

Good design should speak to the humanity and imagination of the viewer, advocates Jongerius.

In order to regain a holistic approach to design and elevate products to a place where they have real love in our daily lives, Jongerius shares her six guiding principles:

1. Start with the yarn

If designers want to create a product that vibrates with energy they must start by designing the base materials.

2. Have a hands-on design method

Intelligent hands, says Jongerius, know more than the head. The mind works in a circular way, revolving around the already known. It is only through experimentation with materials, techniques and colours that designers will find something new.

3. Celebrate the imperfection

Imperfection gives things individuality, argues Jongerius. Celebrate misfits, irregularities and asymmetry.

4. Working from the archive

Use archives and design classics to inspire new design, as this will take designers back to a lost cultural awareness.

5. Have an aesthetic signature

Jongerius has many aesthetic signatures, but at Design Indaba Conference she shared her love of the dot in her work.

6. Research materials

Fully concentrate on issues that are relevant to your designs.

To illustrate the six parts of her design mentality, Jongerius used examples from her own substantial body of work: from the carpet she designed for KLM out of yarn made from recycled uniforms, to the beaded (dotted) curtain she created to soften the light in the UN Delegate Lounge.

Watch the Interview with Hella Jongerius