Thinking About Herbert Muschamp

The late New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp wrote this piece just near the apex of the dotcom boom. It's a critique of a variety of trends in design that Muschamp saw emerging during that era:

  • Apple’s emergence as an over-expressive designer of the computer chassis
  • Designer Bruce Mau’s then rule of the space of book design as a form of art
  • Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ myriad of unconventional approaches to spaces to live in

Muschamp has some great lines about design here:

  • “This is not the first time design has embodied that myth (of progress).”
  • “[Design is used as] a graphic device that conveys the conflicting desire to conceal and reveal.”
  • “The desire to overlook the ugly is a major factor behind the present infatuation with the design medium as a whole.”
  • “... Like any authority, the design phenomenon derives its power from denial. It persuades people to leave unpleasant things out of the picture.”
  • And I found this response to Muschamp’s piece -- a Tamara Coombs from Staten Island writes:

    “[Muschamp] writes as if design were mostly about the way things look. From objects to architecture, he views desirable design as design that pleases the eye and provides a launching pad for metaphorical flights.”

    To which I am reminded of the famous quote by Steve Jobs:

    “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

    There are so many facets to understanding, “What is Design?” -JM

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I made a snapshot of the confluence of design and computation back in 2004:

Copyright 2013, John Maeda