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A deeper look into the design initiatives echoing our socio-cultural trend called “Active Utopia”.

The 21st century is waking up to the necessity of rethinking the world on a larger and longer term scale. In our Futur(s)10 socio-cultural trend "Active Utopia", we see a new kind of consumer emerging with the crisis; a stronger and more mature one who challenges hyper capitalism, short product obsolescence and overconsumption. A consumer looking for fair, honest and reliable products and services, designed for “real life” to serve “real needs”.

The urgency of addressing design within a broader and more human context recalls the doctrines of modernist "post-chaos" avant-garde movements (Bauhaus, De Stijl), and leading industrial designers (Dieter Rams at Braun, Jacques Gueden at Prisunic) who defended ethical principles, humanism (good design for everyone, ergonomics), as well as respect for the "masses". These movements and creators were determined to "do the unthinkable": rethinking every discipline (architecture, urbanism, design, fashion, typography) and turn them into more universal, honest and reliable solutions, designed to improve the everyday lives of  "ordinary people".


Emerging signs 

From left to right : 1. “Less and More : The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams”, London Design Museum & 2. “Utopia Matters: from Brotherhoods to Bauhaus”, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin

A catalyst of  "Good Design" is the manifesto written by Dieter Rams where he expressed; "Good design is innovative, useful, aesthetic, understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, thorough down to the last detail, environmentally friendly, with as little design as possible."

As Braun’s head designer for over 30 years, Dieter Rams pushed the boundaries of industrial design and everyday objects, always driven by his ethical commitment, sense of responsibility aiming at never abusing consumers. Last year, the London Design Museum paid tribute to his work and philosophy in the exhibition "Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams".

Another recent exhibition highlights this design ethos, shared and developed by the Bauhaus school: "Utopia Matters: from Brotherhoods to Bauhaus" at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. Here the emphasis is put on the key role that utopias have played in society and moreover, the radical, universal, humanistic and iconoclastic ideas they can inspire today.

The ongoing exhibition "Universo Rietveld" at the MAXXI Museum in Rome offers a full overview of Gerrit Thomas Rietveld. The Dutch furniture designer and architect, one of the principal members of the Dutch artistic movement De Stijl, also pioneered in modernist design concepts and developments.

Evolution of values

Transparency as an ideology is spreading to consumerism and becoming one of its fundamental features. Brands are now expected to pursue honest and more realistic approaches, and offer more long-term and truly consumer driven solutions.

In line with the great avant-garde movements and industrial luminaries that shaped mass production during the 20th century, consumers now expect to be presented with a clear and radical vision, and the evidence of a genuine ethical, societal and humanist commitment.

Creative concepts

"Humanism" when integrated with functionality communicates this "Good Design" philosophy, combining reliability, utility and beauty. This implies rethinking the creative process, and focusing on ergonomics and reality.

In this context, the "Intemporaries" - a contraction of "intemporel" (timeless) and "contemporary" used by the brand meilleurAmi - are a great creative option to address growing consumers’ demand for design that focuses on universal and "ethical" essentials. New products and services, architecture and everyday environments refocus on pared, practical and utilitarian aesthetics.

From left to right : 1. “5-year Cell-phone” by James Barber & 2. “Essentiel de pâtisserie” by Matali Crasset & Pierre Hermé , Alessi

From left to right : 3. HEMA store interior shot & 4. Denim Therapy,  as seen on www.denimtherapy.com

1. A mobile phone designed to last at least 5 years and to be roughly 85% recyclable. Its longer "programmed" lifespan is coupled with easy access and removable components to facilitate recycling.

2. "Essentiel de pâtisserie" is a collection of improved kitchen utensils, rethought by the designer and pastry-maker duo Matali Crasset and Pierre Hermé for Alessi.

3. The Dutch home and home accessories brand HEMA recently opened a store in Paris. Its innovative in-store offering with functional, practical and simple aesthetics, are reminiscent of Muji and Ikea’s no nonsense philosophy.

4. Another interesting retail approach: Denim Therapy offers repair services to restore used jeans in order to prolong the lifespan of the product.