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Hella Jongerius
A Conversation with Hella Jongerius…
Louise Schouwenberg + Vitra M, August 26, 2013
Hella Jongerius/Blossom lights
Hella Jongerius/Blossom lights
 
LS: Is the only difference a question of style, with the modernists striving to achieve sober designs and the postmodernists more expressive styles?

H.J.: No, you cannot say that. The modernists did have a handwriting of their own, their own sober style, but they always closely allied that sobriety with what they saw as the essence of the profession of design. They had an ideology. Functionality was their most important theme, but they also examined the issue of whether or not something could be reproduced and with what ingenious technical inventions that could take place.


Hella Jongerius/Poldersofa, 2005 Photographer_Allard van der Hoek
Hella Jongerius/Poldersofa, 2005 Photographer_Allard van der Hoek
 
LS: That was their added value. They wanted to design affordable products that functioned well, that symbolized belief in progress by the way they were produced. Do you believe that today, the idea of added value has taken on a life of its own, that it has completely separated itself from the affiliated, functional character of the profession? From the latter half of the 20th century, we see how designers were increasingly designing products that attempt to establish themselves as autonomous works of art. They are narrative, conceptual, sculptural. Have we lost something here?

H.J.: Absolutely. Design has to be coupled to the real needs of users, but also to the possibilities that are available for reproducing and manufacturing products. I realize that I am saying something dangerous here. In the last few decades, consumers have felt a need for mountains of knickknacks. If people surround themselves with all those throwaway products, sooner or later, it will have consequences for the way they feel and think about themselves. For them as well, a turning point has been reached. We look around us and see people asking themselves what is really important, in all kinds of areas. Design can take the lead by formulating a vision. But that vision has to remain close to the user. Design cannot only be about a designer’s need to express himself. That is ultimately a dead-end street. As a designer, if you have too much of a desire just to tell your own story, you run the risk of becoming an artist who is missing something.


Hella Jongerius
Hella Jongerius
 
LS: Now we come to the trend of the limited editions, by now both famous and maligned. They are wild explosions of form that want to attract the attention of the international media and put designers and manufacturers in the spotlight.

H.J.: When you do not have to stop and consider reproduction in large numbers, when all you need to do is produce things as one-of-a-kinds or in small editions, you have the freedom to experiment. You can investigate themes without being restricted by production costs or expected target groups. That is unbelievably important. As a designer, you sometimes have to step back and recharge your batteries. But some designers have used limited editions as a goal in itself, not just as an experimental stage in the design process. As a result, existing designs are simply produced in outrageously expensive materials and signed by the designer.


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