07 Mar Reimagining Authorial Design
Authorial Restyling of Past Objects
Cover Versions in Music vs. Design
Today we’re talking about a topic that I care deeply about because I think it’s fundamental to understand the design refinement of some designers, namely the authorial restyling of past objects. The comparison may seem daring, but in the music field, cover versions are a common practice and sometimes lead to greater success than the original version. I think of Jimy Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower or Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, both covers and both more famous than their original versions.
It’s strange that this doesn’t happen much in design, or at least it’s not declared much. I don’t see anything wrong with creating your own version of a past product, I think it’s a great exercise, as long as you credit the original designer.
It’s a fascinating topic because it creates a natural technological and stylistic comparison with the past that makes both the object and the designer’s process quality even more readable.
In some past articles, I have already talked about how inspiration from the past is a fundamental key not only to unlock creativity but also to create the understanding of the project itself. There I only talked about references, such as Philippe Starck’s Kartell Ghost chair. Today, I’m talking about reissues.
Reissue Design: Necessity of Authority and Quality
Of course, making a reissue is very complicated, it takes authority. To work on a past object, especially if it’s signed by a well-known designer, automatically creates a comparison that is not easy to bear. To tackle such an operation, I think it’s necessary to have already demonstrated in the past to have qualities and be able to bear the comparison. In fact, the most common thing that happens in these cases is that the project remains a concept, but some designers have actually put the object into production.
In general, if the object remains a concept, it can also afford not to be great, as it will remain on paper and cannot do any harm. In the moment it goes into production, however, there is a risk of harm. An example of such an operation, but well executed, is the Traffic collection by Magis, designed by Kostantin Grcic.
When this collection came out, I remember there was immediately a comparison with Le Corbusier’s well-known sofa, but it was 2013 and I don’t know if the comparison was declared or if I made the association myself. But the reference is explicit and with due care. The arrangement of the cushions is very similar, and instead of the tube, the rod was used. The object is evidently fresher and contextualized to the time of its release, and, to be honest, I don’t even think they are objects that compete with each other. Although the design comes from the same matrix, the result is very different, especially for the feeling it gives in an interior design project.
Another well-known reference is the design of Apple during the Jonathan Ive era, which often refers to the Braun products of Dieter Rams’ period.
Are these designers copying?
I don’t think so, creativity is the ability to associate, and it’s normal to take different references and put them together. I think execution skills count more because having an idea is easy, but bringing it to fruition is not for everyone.
There is also some design that take inspiration from the past, but in another way. Have a look at Positive Nostalgia blog post.