‘New’ carries a sense of mystery and excitement. I’m not just talking about new objects and things, but ideas and concepts – we’re drawn to them. We often hold things that are new in higher esteem than what might be more appropriate or better. We get caught up in ‘newness’ and can sometimes lose sight of the central values and ideals that make things what they are in the first place.
Designer Hella Jongerius and theorist Louise Schouwenberg lament this focus on ‘new for the sake of new’ in a manifesto ‘Beyond the New: A Search for Ideals in Design’. It asks that one stays true to values and ideals, and implores design companies to get out of the rat race and get back to focusing on the ideal of the “highest possible quality,” imbued with “cultural and historical meanings and values.”
I’ve selected a few nuggets from Jongerius and Schouwenberg’s manifesto here:
- Cultural and historical awareness are woven into the DNA of any worthwhile product… There is value in continually re-examining what already exists, delving into the archives, poring over the classics.
- Design is not about products. Design is about relationships.
- By means of its language and employment of techniques, good design expresses both the zeitgeist and a deep awareness of the past.
- Without play, there can be no design that inspires the user. Without foolishness and fun there can be no imagination.
- An industry that is willing to embrace new challenges and experimentation has the power to exploit the full potential of existing and new technologies, including the digital media.
The point is that a shift in mentality is required. ‘New’ doesn’t always mean better. We need to look back – to ideas, objects, and concepts – to look forward. New means dealing with today’s challenges and possibilities, while giving a solid nod to the past. It’s much richer than just ‘new’.