A New Aesthetic

Aesthetic Pollution and the Soul of Design

Just as farmers are the keepers of land, we designers are the keepers of mindscape. We must nurture it and care for it and make sure that there will always be wilderness, diversity and freedom there.

De Stijl, Bauhaus, constructivism and Dada … Heartfield, Dumbar and Kalman … Design has long stood at the forefront of aesthetic and political change. But after the Second World War we became entangled in the thicket of consumer capitalism and lost our way.

Our magazines decayed into toxic mindscapes – noisy, fractured places ruled by ads. We designed millions of glittering, short-lived products destined to spend eternity in the purgatory of landfills. We championed consumption, aestheticized and validated waste and constructed false emotional glows around brands. For 50 years we glorified corporate power and kissed corporate ass. The marketplace became the soul of our profession. Now facing a warming planet and a precarious future, a new generation of designers is stepping beyond that sorry history to forge our profession’s path into the future.

Do we still have it? Can we invent a new magazine aesthetic and transcend the death of print? Can we design sustainable products and rid our cities of waste? Can we cultivate new sensibilities for our post-materialist age? There are hints of this new aesthetic in Kenya Hara’s Designing Design when he talks about “a future without artifice,” “whispered value systems” and creating “vehicles of thought and feeling.” There are clues of it in Jean-Marie Massaud’s mission to create “a new art de vivre” and inspired examples of it in Banksy’s (and other street artists’) heady mix of politics, design and the intimacies of everyday life.

The first steps in the fight for the soul of our profession are to boldly rise against the obnoxious billboards springing up in our cities, to combat the antidemocratic viruses invading cyberspace and to resist the corruption of our identities by brands. Our century will be a time of tremendous ideological clashes, paradigm shifts and meta-meme warfare on all fronts. As designers, we must be the advance guards – positioning ourselves at the forefront of every struggle and debate.

Just as farmers are the keepers of land, we are the keepers of mindscape. We must nurture it and care for it and make sure that there will always be wilderness, diversity and freedom there.

For the Wild, Kalle

Tsubaki Noboru, Aesthetic Pollution, 1990. Photo: Katsuhiro Ichikawa.

26 comments on the article “Aesthetic Pollution and the Soul of Design”

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Anonymous

I think the tone and energy of adbuster's articles are just fine and fitting for the target audience. Lloyd, if you really know what you are talking about, you should be able to identify the rhetoric strategies in this article and project a rough estimate as to the target age group demographic. They aren't writing "The Nation" level articles because this isn't The Nation. These are future The Nation readers. You'll find a serious lack of progressive thinking magazines for young adults; adbusters is filling that void with great ideas that people without a degree in philosophy can and would want to follow. Please chill if you are really interested in spreading progressive thought. Also, it's funny how pompous your bravado about ideas just sounded.

Anonymous

It's pretty clear which rhetorical strategies are being used; perhaps a book/class on rhetoric would help you out. This isn't really the appropriate time or place to analyze it; off the topic you understand. (But here is a start for you. Look up: pathos, ethos, logos, casual writing, supporting evidence, purposeful ambiguity and clarity.)

Anonymous

Sure designers have the power to influence society, but the balance between commercialism, exclusivity, and sustainability will never be wholly reached. Humans are too selfish.

Anonymous

Sure designers have the power to influence society, but the balance between commercialism, exclusivity, and sustainability will never be wholly reached. Humans are too selfish.

Anonymous

Anyone who has studied the post World War ii history of graphic design knows its intimately intertwined relationship with advertising, marketing, branding, consumerism, husksterism and and capitalism. We designers have been promoting mindless consumerism, passionately kissing corporate ass and standing up for business as usual for far too long - now, my generation, we won't be doing that any more.

Anonymous

Anyone who has studied the post World War ii history of graphic design knows its intimately intertwined relationship with advertising, marketing, branding, consumerism, husksterism and and capitalism. We designers have been promoting mindless consumerism, passionately kissing corporate ass and standing up for business as usual for far too long - now, my generation, we won't be doing that any more.

An Earthling

I truly hope that you personally won't. But there are others and they need invented money and are ready to sell their souls for the bling. Morally reprehensible,sure. But their argument goes something like this: "If I kick away,say, McDonald's people out of my agency they will just go around the corner to another guy and still make it to the billboards. So I'd rather eat this shit with my soul's nostril closed for this one time but keep my kids at the university." We should of course be naming and shaming the despicable. But to some people it is self-evident unfortunately that making money is a good thing. It is human nature they mistakenly are saying. So the criminalisation of unsolicited mind-rape via ads has only just begun. Most people are asleep and we need to redisign the whole culture. But then again kids grow up have there own kids to feed and most forget the morals. They are being slowly diluted by the system. "If people want to sleep, It is not my duty to wake them up, and they will be just angry and annoyed by the disturbance and go back to sleep again." I wonder if we at all can "enlighten" the least common denominator majority. But the world needs its Quixotics

An Earthling

I truly hope that you personally won't. But there are others and they need invented money and are ready to sell their souls for the bling. Morally reprehensible,sure. But their argument goes something like this: "If I kick away,say, McDonald's people out of my agency they will just go around the corner to another guy and still make it to the billboards. So I'd rather eat this shit with my soul's nostril closed for this one time but keep my kids at the university." We should of course be naming and shaming the despicable. But to some people it is self-evident unfortunately that making money is a good thing. It is human nature they mistakenly are saying. So the criminalisation of unsolicited mind-rape via ads has only just begun. Most people are asleep and we need to redisign the whole culture. But then again kids grow up have there own kids to feed and most forget the morals. They are being slowly diluted by the system. "If people want to sleep, It is not my duty to wake them up, and they will be just angry and annoyed by the disturbance and go back to sleep again." I wonder if we at all can "enlighten" the least common denominator majority. But the world needs its Quixotics

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