A couple of weeks I wrote a post
that has garnered more hits than any other I’ve written. All I did was write about a couple of things I love and why, with plenty of nice pictures, and it seems people want to read that rather than my stentorian opinions on current events. And because I’m a bit of a mawkish crowd-pleaser, and at a loss for ideas today, I thought I’d do a follow-up : I Love Design II.
I didn’t exactly illustrate what I meant by design for the last post, so to clarify: good design fulfills Dieter Rams’ (he of Braun) Ten Principles:
• Good design is innovative.
• Good design makes a product useful.
• Good design is aesthetic.
• Good design helps us to understand a product.
• Good design is unobtrusive.
• Good design is honest.
• Good design is durable.
• Good design is consequent to the last detail.
• Good design is concerned with the environment.
• Good design is as little design as possible.
Strong words. With that said, here’s another top five:
1) The Lunar Lander
Class project time! Here’s a pocket calculator, some tinfoil, a rocket, and some aluminium tubing. The brief is you have to build a fully-maneuverable vehicle that can land on the surface of another planet, support two men, weigh, like, half a pound, and separate into two stages. Okay, go.
You know, here’s what I love about NASA. In this day and age NASA seems a bit old-fashioned and expensive, sending big old rockets into space and doing fiendish experiments. Again and again its budget is cut
in the interests of balancing the US budget ( rimshot!). I’m not going to talk about the fact that Americans spend more on pizza or gambling
than they do on space exploration. I’m just going to focus on something awesome that NASA made. Because that’s what’s important.
The Lunar Lander is an example of something that isn’t especially beautiful but has a queer kind of majesty. It’s ugly, really, all hard lines and bumps, looking like a Herpes virus or a spider covered in foil. But here’s the awesome bit: It worked perfectly. It did exactly what was needed, and then some; when Apollo 13 went to shit, it was the Lunar Lander that provided the astronauts with oxygen. Despite looking like it was made on Scrapheap Challenge, this thing was capable of doing something no vehicle had ever done before, first time, without any fuss. No biggie. And if that’s not a sort of beauty, then…shut up.
I’m going to say straight up that I think Sharks are dicks and I hate them. Personally, it doesn’t bother me that 100 million are killed every year. Ecologically it’s a terrible problem, because sharks generally occupy the top of the food chain and keep the biosphere balanced, but if I’m being entirely selfish I’m not going to cause much of a fuss if they run out.
From a design perspective, however, i have to admire them. The basic body plan of the shark hasn’t changed in three hundred million years. They more or less evolved in their final form and, apart from a bit of tinkering with size, evolution has seen them stay pretty much the same since before the continents existed.
The reason why is that sharks are perfect. They have no superfluous aspects – every bit is the exact way it should be. They’re a torpedo with teeth and, until humans came along and fucked it up, they were the most dangerous animal on the face of the earth. A shark can smell blood at one part per million in water. Its body is covered in tiny knives
that help it move through water more efficiently. It can see electricity
. It has no bones. It never sleeps.It can hear over miles. It can solve basic problems. It can change its gender.
That’s pretty badass. I don’t like them, and I can’t help that, but I have to admire nature’s best stab at a killing machine.
3) Hugo Boss
I’m probably going to get into trouble for this entry, and I want you to know that i think Nazis were evil, monstrous and inhuman in basically every way possible. I have no respect for their beliefs, actions or legacy.That being said…
Do you know why Nazis are the villainous mainstay of cinema, and not Fascist Italians, Soviet Russians or Irish terrorists?
The Nazis had style. It wasn’t a nice style, sure, but it was a style nonetheless, a kind of aesthetic presence. They knew how to dress, and they dressed in Hugo Boss.
A lot of the whole kind of fear/dread/leather and little skulls thing about the Nazis is down to the fact they were the best dressed. It’s kind of, um, emblematic of a particular people at a particular time. Ideologies had uniforms – think the tin hat of the British squaddie or the Hammer & Sickle badge of the Soviet comrade. It was a time when you identified your enemy by what he wore. It seems weird, a little twisted and a bit clever for the Nazis to ally themselves with brands, which is what they did. Hugo Boss started out as a clothing manufacturer and fashion brand who shot to (i’m going to be careful and say) “international renown” after designing the uniforms of the Schutzstaffel – the dreaded SS, who rounded up “undesirables” and sent them to camps. Colossal dicks, basically. Hugo Boss himself was also involved in designing the Stormtrooper uniforms and the outfits of the Hitler Youth.
From a pure design perspective, there’s something eerie about how good a job they did. I can never look at these designs without remembering this video
“Are we the baddies?”
Nowadays Hugo Boss is a premium brand, testament to the fact that consumers are morally fickle. I only own one Hugo Boss piece, and I will tell you : it’s the best suit jacket I’ve ever owned. You can keep Paul Smith, Topman, Marks & Spencer or Armani. Hugo Boss embodies a weird kind of Germanic design aesthetic, efficient and masculine, stylish and luxuriant. I find it very hard to be excited by clothing, but this is…different. Before I encountered Hugo Boss, clothes were just a thing I wore to stop me from freezing.
Oh, and in case you think I’m venerating a brand indelibly associated with the Nazis, here’s a list of companies who collaborated with the Nazi government who you should shun.
Kodak, Volkswagen, Bayer, Siemens, Coca-Cola, Ford, Standard Oil, Chase Bank, IBM, Random House, Allianz, Novartis, Nestle, BMW, General Electric, The RockeFeller Foundation, General Motors.
4) The Audi Concept From I,Robot
If you’re the sort of person who learns from Top Gear i can pretty much guarantee we won’t get along. To me, a car is a thing that goes from A to B by way of ring roads, one way streets and roundabouts. I do not get an erection from cars. They are things I sit in to go places.
But Audis are different. If there’s one in the vicinity, I will look at it. My eyes will widen. I will start to drool slightly, and then feel weird, because I do not get excited about cars.
I cannot tell you what mileage they get, how fast they go, if the clutch sticks, if they’re inconvenient to drive. I don’t know if they’re gas-guzzling deathtraps or not.
I just like Audis. And I like the Audi hovercar from I,Robot. It looks like sex if sex was made of metal.
I don’t know what I meant by that.
5) Human Beings
Ayn Rand, beloved pop-philosopher of right-wing douchebags everywhere, once said that men and women were beautiful not because they were covered in bright feathers but because there wasn’t much there that could be subtracted. Mankind is kind of pared down to the essential. Obviously it’s a work in progress because we have weird tufts of hair everywhere, but have you ever looked at people and thought, “that’s actually a pretty good design?”. It’s not bad, right? It’s got all the key bits. Apart from the hair and the appendix, pretty much nothing is superfluous. The brain is obviously the focus of this particular design, what with the large head and face.
Jesus, even boobs have a function! Good job, evolution.
Speaking of which…