Design firms (and for-profits in general) will explain how genius the company is, the good it does and how it lifts the voice of the people. A good designer does do all of these things, just look at Dieter Rams and Charles and Ray Eames. But let’s face it: not all designers are in it for the betterment of humanity, some really are just in it to make an extra buck.
As pessimistic as this sounds, it’s still true. In an effort to change that, we need to rethink where it is we shop. If we’re buying our things from companies that have made fast fashion its bread and butter, we’re in for some trouble. We need to be buying from companies that take time in creating products that are long lasting and not meant for the trash heap.
Facing the Music
Let’s be frank: a big reason fast fashion has taken such a strong hold is because the products are cheap. We can get a lot for our money, and being able to get more for little is what we’ve been conditioned to believe is a good investment, it’s not. How often are you replacing your shoes? Every few months? What are you using to prop up that IKEA book case in the living room? The old expression “you get what you pay for” really is true. Instead of buying something on the cheap, why not invest in something that you’ll have for years? Here are three companies that have made it their mission to bring conscientious design to the mainstream through democratic design methods.
What is the focus of democratic design? The focus of democratic design is to help people. Founded in 1978, Luceplan set out from the start to be a design firm that put people first. The company wasn’t interested in making a grand show of opulence and wealth, its founders were interested in designing products that improved user experience at an affordable price. Too often companies with a focus on democratic design upsell their products, making it impossible for people of humble incomes to own them. Luceplan does not do this. While it is more expensive than IKEA, Luceplan’s democratic design is self-evident. They have built innovative products that can transition between spaces and time. They are products that are built to last. Why pay hundreds of dollars every few months for replacements when you can pay that price once for 20-plus years of use?
Van Bo Le-Mentzel: The Architect
Though not technically a design firm, architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel was an immigrant from Laos when he moved to Germany as a young child. Through his training in architecture, Mentzel was turned on to the design philosophy of the Bauhaus, where clean lines and bold color came together to create a simple yet powerful statement. Mentzel designs furniture with the belief that its democratic nature “gives the power to the people to make their world a more aesthetic, more social, more uplifting place, without government, police or multinational interference.” Mentzel believes that this simple furniture design can change the world, one piece at a time.
Having been in the furniture-design business for close to a century, Calligaris evolves with the changing times and creates bold statements using clean lines and industrial materials. The Calligaris mission is to design pieces in which (like all good pieces) form follows function, but not just that: pieces that also emit feeling and reason. A room should have personality; a room should make a statement. Calligaris has designed countless furniture pieces that do exactly that.
Democratic design is about doing what’s right and changing the world for the better. Does your furniture do that?