Design and Art: Utopias and Collectives Part 2

Douglas Coupland
Mad Scientist//2000

This essay makes a perfect example of a good design.  A good design can possess a lasting relevance and importance within a generation or generations of people. Coupland discusses the various relevancies of the Panton Chair before concluding that Panton was an excellent designer.

"Back before the mid-1990s neo-modernist revival, the Panton Chair conferred an aura on its surroundings that was at once rare, expensive, delicate, and privileged, at the same time marking its owner as an educated and finicky soul, patiently willing to deal with ageing plastics of unknown half-lives.  Now, two years after his death, Panton is obscure no more.  Licensed reproductions of his chair (made of sterner stuff) have swamped the marketplace; miniature versions are sold in stores for use in dollhouses."

Coupland uses the popularity of the Panton Chair as an example of its relevancy and permanence in our culture. The chair was once rare, yet now it is so abundant in production that even dolls use them in their own home decor. Short and sweet Coupland affirms Panton's impatience with traditional notions,  explaining that Panton lived in an era where 'modular' and 'future' always ended up in the same sentence. Coupland finishes with a sentiment that reflecting our flaws can occasionally create the best art.

"There is a famous image of Panton and his wife at home, settting up a weekend lunch in a room resembling the child-containment centre beside IKEA's room of plastic balls.  One senses that the Pantons are kind of pushing it to make the place look functional.  But it is the stretch that ends up being the point. Visitors to the Vitra show can see for themselves that Panton was at his best when he was at his most impractical, and that his work, while timeless in many ways, is also strongly locked into a moment and place - a roundabout way of saying he was an excellent designer." 

Coupland presents Panton's Chair being locked into a moment and place as evidence of good design. A good design perhaps is one that stands the test of time, however true, this idea could be argued for a variety of creative fields.

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