The word “design” literally refers to the planning which forms the basis for the construction or realization of a complex, material or conceptual object. It was originally most often used to define industrial design or design in view of future industrial production. However, over the years it has acquired other meanings deriving from the significant role it has gained in different fields. The word “design” is therefore also used to define the aesthetic profile of an artifact (e.g. an object can have a minimalist design, characterized by clean essential lines) or the artistic current (or style) when applied to the industrially produced object.
Today, the term “design” has come to be widely associated with art and creativity. More specifically, perhaps erroneously, design is linked to quality products or those with much sought-after aesthetic characteristics. The misuse of the word design has consequently caused much confusion around its exact definition, since it is often used outside its initial context of design or industrial design, such as in referring to a restricted category of manufactured goods belonging to a well-defined category of sophisticated design. A prime example is that of designer products often of high quality, such as “designer” handbags.
This mix of meanings dates to almost the beginning of industrial design itself with the advent of industrial production and the appearance of the first leading companies and first distinctive features. Although there is no well-defined date for the birth of industrial design, its development can be summed up in a handful of founding events. Some argue, for instance, that one can begin to talk about industrial design with the early industrial revolution of the eighteenth century which took place in England. Indeed, with the first industrial revolution, the figure of the industrial-oriented designer came into being, but the image of industrial design as we know it today was not yet clearly defined.
However, though industrial design already had a solid foundation after this, other important events were needed to complete its formation and the development of industrial design also had to experience the influence of many artistic-cultural movements and design schools. One of these was the Staatliche Bauhaus, which operated in Germany in the period between the two world wars (1919-1933) and was a decisive factor in the history of industrial design. The aim was to approach design in an integrated way and so bring together all forms of art and design, including architecture. Its students studied mass production, art and craft, as well as new technologies. As a result of the all-round approach to design it publicized and taught, design came to be considered a real and proper discipline in itself for the first time.
Heir to the pre-war avant-garde, it was a school that also represented a fundamental point of reference for all the innovations in the field of design and architecture linked to rationalism and functionalism, part of the so-called modern movement. Its teachers were of different nationalities, the foremost figures in European culture the school’s didactic experience has profoundly affected teaching in the artistic and technical sectors until today. It was here that the meaning of design began to take on multiple senses: the Staatliche Bauhaus was, first and foremost an organization concerned with training designers, but over time it became associated with producing designers who all shared a particular style. Eventually, “Bauhaus” came to refer more to a style of design than the actual design process itself. Here began our descent into confusion.
Find an error? Take a screenshot, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send you $3!