What is your ethos for good design

Attitude! How much ethos does design need?


Christian Demand 10/31/101 Comment

The text comes from the first volume in the series “Art and Philosophy”. The first volume in the series is dedicated to the content of the symposium at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg and examines the question of whether the same aesthetic values ​​and norms should and can be applied to design objects as to works of art. The series is being published as part of the cooperation event Philosophy: Art 2009 -2011

“Art and Philosophy - Aesthetic Values ​​and Design”, just published by Hatje Cantz. With the kind permission of the publisher and the author, Prof. Christian Demand.

Attitude_How much_Ethos_required_Design_PDF - Download

"So what everyone in the world values ​​as beautiful, we also want to respect that as beautiful."
Albrecht Dürer
My father was a great expert and lover of household and furniture design. Throughout his life, the certainty of his taste, which I am still impressed with today - his ideas of good design were shaped by the Deutscher Werkbund, the Bauhaus and the Ulm School of Design - stood in sad contrast to the financial resources that my parents had given the construction of a house and three Children were able to spend on it. Since only a few items could actually be purchased - including some electrical appliances designed by Dieter Rams for the Braun company - the compensatory occupation with relevant magazines, manufacturer catalogs and specialist books took up even more space at home.


It should be obvious that as an adolescent it is difficult to get acquainted with the erotic effect of a permanent theoretical deepening in questions of the appropriate chair leg cross-section or the correct matting of lacquered surfaces. Hardly anything put my adolescent long-suffering to the test like the family's pilgrimages to selected furniture stores (the favorite, of course, was a shop called »Die gute Form«), which practically never resulted in a purchase. If, after all, it was possible to purchase a hanging lamp, there were several such visits on the program - I don't even want to talk about the excruciating test that the millimeter-accurate installation later meant for me as a tool-assembling assistant. Even if at the time I couldn't always understand what could make an adult without need to shut up so relentlessly on furnishing issues, I later discovered that this obsessive approach to the question of good form had inadvertently become second nature to me . Without even realizing it and without even wanting to, I have become what my father was: a passionate fan of furniture design. I don't spend a minute less in furniture stores today and I even collect furniture, preferably pieces from the 1950s and 1960s (some of which come from my parents' house).

My father's infectious enthusiasm for convincing design solutions went hand in hand with an equally infectious, almost contemptuous displeasure against commonplace natures who had no streak, no time or no desire to deal intensively with aesthetic issues. As far as deviations from the right path of artistic virtue were concerned, he was intolerant to the point of dogmatism and his trained eye did not miss even the smallest detail. I had the impression that he was better able to come to terms with pure shapelessness than with gross negligence or even ambitious, but in his opinion misguided taste. His reluctance to violate the principle of material justice, dignified production, the economy of design means and the functional linkage of form expressed itself spontaneously through reflexive repulsive gestures in which a component of believable physical pain was woven. He conveyed to us children very convincingly that the question of the design of their own living environment was not about something secondary, but about a fundamental attitude towards existence, i.e. a virtue, a form of care, comparable to the effort that one makes to present a decent appearance in clothing, grooming, and demeanor. My father considered striving for good form to be a duty to himself and his fellow human beings and accordingly there was always a latent moral undertone in his remarks on this topic, which, I believe, was ultimately based on the idealistic conviction that good Shape also makes good people. 1


With this conception of the value and essence of successful design and the related aesthetic rigor, my father continued a tradition that can be traced back to the 19th century. A typical example: From 1890 to 1899, the Illustrirte kunstgewerbliche magazine for interior decoration was published in Darmstadt. At the time, the proud German bourgeoisie preferred to furnish their home with eclectic recourse to the design forms of the past - today one would probably call it retro-chic. The furniture manufacturers' range of strict copies and free re-creations through temporal distance between worlds of forms that have become exotic ranged from the early Middle Ages to the Rococo. Even if the styles were often jumbled up in the apartment, attention was usually paid to stylistically closed ensembles in each individual room. A historic salon or a gentleman's room was a total work of art - an atmospheric staging of sumptuous pieces of furniture, carpets, textile draperies, matching wall, glass, door and ceiling designs as well as numerous selected paintings, statuettes and decorative pieces. Such an effort made interior design a matter that needed to be considered carefully.
In the foreword for the year 1894, Professor Hermann Götz, director of the Karlsruhe School of Applied Arts, addressed the readers of the young publication as follows: »Which style do you think is suitable that it will meet the demands of fashion for a long time? - This is what a well-known gentleman recently asked me who was planning to furnish the interior of his newly built villa. The good man probably had no idea what an unclear question he had put to me and it was only with difficulty that I was able to convince him how difficult it would be to fulfill his wish. After all, our fashion is too changeable, because what you consider to be the gospel today will be dismissed as outdated and old tomorrow. "2. Of course, only the first could have lasting value: "The beautiful remains beautiful forever - he therefore countered the unsuspecting layman - regardless of which style epoch it belongs to, every fashion change will be victorious! Every style has its charms [...] when efficient training paired with artistic ability work together. "
He did not have to specifically explain that Götz was not talking about the purposeless, autonomous beauty of free art, but about applied beauty, i.e. of good form that arises from a successful combination of aesthetic and functional qualities. It was repeated like a prayer wheel in every issue of the magazine, so it could be taken for granted. On the other hand, he believed he had to emphasize that the victory of good form does not happen by itself, but represents an arduous pedagogical challenge. “Our current addiction to the new and the original has damaged the purposeful creation of good and tasty things a lot, as it has even produced some questionable fruits. Given the overabundance of what is on offer, it is already difficult for the artist and specialist to find out what is dignified, how much less at a loss does the audience find their way through this chaos of flavors! To give a guideline according to this page, to stimulate the artist and specialist, to instruct and instruct the layman, that is the goal that the "magazine for interior decoration" has set for itself. It wants to take into account the multiple demands of the now-time, to offer good and recommendable things on the most varied of sides and thus to have a positive effect on the taste of the audience. "

Let us record the central tenets of belief to which this programmatic preface aims to oblige its readers:
A living space design that wants to lay claim to beauty must bring aesthetic and functional requirements into a harmonious relationship.
Beauty is a timeless quality: that which is tastefully designed stands outside the change in fashion - good form is and remains good form.
In order to recognize good form and to distinguish it from bad form, you need »thorough training«, in other words special expertise. There is therefore a clear competence gap between the professional and the layperson.
The perplexed builder, who could give his home any shape, provided the investment lasts as long as possible, is portrayed by Götz as an embarrassing figure. Without well-founded design principles, so the subtext, his path will lead him exactly where he did not want to go, namely directly into the chaos of tastes and fashions.
The emphatically concerned tone also suggests that such a lack of design principles is not a trivial offense. Even if it did not refer directly to analogous orientation weaknesses in other areas of lifestyle - a suspicion that Götz did not comment on, but which numerous other articles in the magazine nourish - it would be due to the risk of infection that emanates from the bad example , a nuisance. The artistic instruction of the layman, the professionally guided formation of his taste, is therefore an important task of popular education.
That is exactly the position that my father also took and that for a long time seemed natural to me without any alternative. In the following, I will call it the "theory of good form" for short, even if, strictly speaking, it is an authoritative theory of educated taste. Authoritative because it assumes that there is a generally binding hierarchy of design solutions, a clear gradation from bad to better to masterfully successful, which can be recognized with the appropriate training and on which one can therefore also fundamentally agree. If judgments about design refer to this ranking, they can be true or false. Aesthetic differences in judgment are accordingly interpreted as epistemic failures, analogous to empirical differences in judgment: They arise when one of the parties involved has not recognized a certain quality of design. Thus, they should actually be quite easy to enclose by showing their respective opponents the property (s) they overlooked on the object in question. Once the goodness of the good has been recognized, any dissent is completely resolved.


Mind you, the “theory of good form” is not an invention of Professor Götz. Almost 50 years earlier, Sir Henry Cole had written in the Journal of Design and Manufactures, the first specialized magazine for industrial design that he founded, about the assessment of successful design. If you dig deeper into the literature on furniture and handicrafts, you would quickly find that Cole also had spiritual predecessors. However, the question of priority is irrelevant to the context with which I am talking here. What is more important to me is the observation that the five theses that I have distilled have been recited unchanged for several generations in magazines, books, catalogs, articles and lectures on the subject of design and that they can therefore now be rightly described as canonical. For reasons of space, I have to limit myself to an exemplary document. To get in the mood, the authors of one of the most successful design books of the 1980s and 1990s asked their readers the following question: “What makes a classic furniture?” The answer that they themselves suggested was: “Certainly the same, which also applies to the classic ones Works of music and literature: harmony of form and content, a universal, timeless design language. This maturity of design raises the classics of modernism above the mediocrity of contemporary products. Because classic design […] is ›a personal intellectual creation‹, an innovation in functionality and form that is more than fashionable originality. "

This emphatic praise of binding design comes from a popular overview that the magazine Schöner Wohnen published between 1982 and 1998 in no less than 19 editions. Where Professor Götz spoke of good and tasteful design, artistic training and solidity at the turn of the 20th century, at the turn of the twenty-first there was talk of maturity of design, universal form and timeless innovation. The terminology had changed a little, but the substance remained the same: the good shape continued to stick out like a beacon from the chaos of arbitrary design that surrounds it (and every quick glance at the relevant periodicals of our days shows that nothing has changed to this day has changed). The title of the volume was Modern Classics: Furniture that makes history. The combination of the two actually antipodal terms "classic" and "modern", which had been established a little earlier in the visual arts, 4 was a sign of a changed evaluation of applied art compared to the 19th century. It grew out of the conviction that furniture that has been designed by renowned designers, preferably artists or architects, is not just a handicraft, but rather a "personal spiritual creation" and therefore real art Consequently, the book was presented like an art-historical overview work: In addition to chronologically arranged interpretative work descriptions, designer portraits were of central importance, and the authors claimed to present a valid canon of good design for all living areas. The fact that they honestly declared the furniture to be historical actors, about whom no stories are told, but who in turn »make« history, is an interesting parallel to the academic history of art. Many art historians also still regard their discipline with a clear conscience as the aesthetic judgment of the last time and serve the result of the countless selection processes, which are conditioned by mechanisms and interests as diverse as they are unmanageable, on which historiography is based, as a self-evident representation of artistic quality.


The "theory of good form" has many plausible sides, yes it must have, otherwise it would certainly not have been so successful. For example, it goes perfectly with the experience of immediate and unavoidable evidence that can be given to one in the satisfactory solution of design problems, even if it may only be about choosing the right wardrobe or the table decorations for an evening invitation. There is this moment, familiar to everyone, when all doubts fall silent and one is suddenly quite certain: "This here" - a certain color, a shape, a material - belongs right here, it has to look so-and-not-different , work, feel. Since the "theory of good form" ties aesthetic judgment competence to the objective gaze of the trained eye, it also harmonizes perfectly with the observation that lovers of certain epochs, style periods or design schools usually come to similar evaluations, which directly affect the Price formation is reflected in the collector's market, which knows economic trends, but is largely stable. For the same reason, it is also excellently suited to explain and, above all, to legitimize the formation of canons, as happened in the aforementioned book on modern classics, which has since been replaced by dozens of similar follow-up publications. A certain historical series, which is presented as exemplary, appears against the background of the five premises mentioned not so much as the result of a choice that could be motivated by countless, possibly partly inexplicable factors, but as an inevitable and thus authoritatively binding result of a solid one Cognitive process. In the next step, one can then easily deduce a public interest in the existence of design museums and design lessons - the explanatory power of the »theory of good form« is evidently so comprehensive that it can even prove the existence of those who represent it to be necessary.
Despite this impressive range of services, it also poses a serious problem for which - at least so far - no one has been able to offer me a convincing solution.She claims that it is specific formal qualities that make a certain artifact an example of good design, more precisely: an exterior that is optimally tailored to its practical value. But when an object that has these qualities to a high degree really protrudes so towering above the mediocrity of contemporary products, as the authors of Schöner Wohnen claim, when dignified design actually survives every fashion change victoriously, as Professor Götz put it: Why must this victory is really so hard to fight for? Why don't most people choose good shape all by themselves? Why do you simply overlook the design quality when it is supposedly piling up in front of your eyes?
For more than a century and a half, the common answer has been: Because, unfortunately, laypeople are usually blind to what is really beautiful - one only has to look at the dreadful apartments, the ugly houses, the tasteless clothes of those around them to see notice that most of them lack what Professor Götz called “good training”.3 Our education, which is arranged mainly according to the considerations of the understanding, infallibly creates the habit of an abstract thinking that is poor in intuition - and this, with its concepts and generalities withdrawn from the life of real phenomena, is the most useless tool for the development of those expressions of life through which we are able to Art determines our relationship to the world and life. «Art education, results and suggestions of the Art Education Act in Dresden on September 28 and 29, 1901, ed. from the German Art Education Day, Leipzig 1902, p. 124.]

This information may sound obvious at first, but it gives considerable reason for mistrust on at least two points. Point one: Generations of magazine makers have influenced audiences since the mid-19th century, dozens of design chairs have been created, hundreds of design museums founded, thousands of books written, tens of thousands of lectures given. At the same time, myriads of art and craft educators across the country have carried the pure doctrine of good form among people - and yet nothing has evidently changed for the better. The same old lament about the lack of a creative level is still being recited in the same resigned tone, and interestingly, as a rule, by people who would rate their own need for aesthetic instruction as rather low. This should actually give food for thought, because it allows only two conclusions: Either it is not - or at least not only - the lack of proper training, or the students are lacking in efficiency. Neither would be good news for friends of good shape. Point two: Such a far-reaching deficiency thesis, which the majority of the population easily declares to be aesthetic cripples, should be able to offer better reasons than the disappointment that the standards that you intuitively apply in relation to the formal design of your own living environment are from not shared with other people.

But the question is: does the ability to recognize the beautiful as beautiful really require special expertise? Just as a reminder: We are not talking about cosmology and quantum mechanics, but about the design of tables, cupboards, chairs, i.e. everyday devices of manageable complexity, their being so and not different, in contrast to some ambitious conceptual positions in the educational one Art, actually, shouldn't pose an unsolvable puzzle to anyone. In any case, it is highly doubtful whether we are dealing with a faculty in the sense of the beautiful. Immanuel Kant, who discussed this question at the end of the 18th century with clarity that has not been surpassed since, expressly denied it. He insisted that beauty is not recognized, but felt - and that we are therefore quite wrong with epistemic categories such as competence, knowledge or expertise. "It is beautiful," says Section 9 of the Critique of Judgment, "what is generally pleasing without a term." 7 According to Kant, this requirement is met above all by structures that have a formal order that can be described as "organized in form". as "organically structured" or "coherent in itself" 4, Darmstadt 1977, p. 306 f: “The linguistic usage of the eighteenth century takes 'expediency' in a broader sense: He sees in it the general expression for every coherence of the parts of a manifold into a unity, regardless of the reasons for this coherence and from what sources it may be written. (In this sense, the word is only the paraphrase and the German rendering of the term that Leibnitz had designated with the expression 'harmony' within his system.) A whole means 'expedient' if such a breakdown of the parts occurs in it, that each part not only stands next to the other, but that its peculiar meaning is coordinated with it. Only in such a relationship does the whole change from a mere aggregate into a closed system [...] «].

The responsiveness to the aesthetic qualities of such structures is neither an innate privilege nor an acquired ability, but a natural part of our basic equipment as sensually perceiving beings (more precisely: as being determined for knowledge and the fulfillment of this determination as pleasurable9).

According to Kant, there can be no disagreement about the beautiful in this understanding of the word: All people perceive the free play of imagination and understanding equally as pleasurably invigorating, so they react to the same forms in the same way under the same conditions. If they don't, they either stand in their own way because personal, non-generalizable expectations and preferences - that is, private conditions of their inner life - cloud their judgment. Or we are no longer dealing with beauty alone, but are already on a terrain in which reflection on the aesthetic is superimposed in a complex way on claims from other spheres of value. The examples of free and therefore binding beauty that Kant cites do not come from the design studio, but rather all from nature's design office: They are flowers, shells, leaves, bird feathers, lines in the sand, et cetera. The only design product that falls into the same category for him are wallpapers with a repeat pattern, i.e. a design that has no artistic ambitions, but rather relies on the same regularly irregular perception patterns that also fascinate us in natural forms. 5as well as the art of clothing to taste (rings, cans, etc.). Because a ground floor of all sorts of flowers, a room with all sorts of decorations (including the dressing of the ladies included) make up a kind of painting at a grand festival, which, as well as the actually so-called [...] is only there for viewing, to the imagination in the Entertaining free play with ideas and employing aesthetic judgment without a specific purpose. "(Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment. Edited by Karl Vorländer, 7th edition, Hamburg 1990, pp. 179f.)]


I believe that Kant is fundamentally correct in making this observation. Indeed, there seems to be something like the smallest common multiple of aesthetic responsiveness, which one may not necessarily have to justify transcendentally philosophically, as in the Critique of Judgment. One can also formulate it, more modestly, as an anthropological hypothesis, which would then read: The vast majority - if not all - people are equally fascinated by the beauty of naturally created forms, provided that no more existential worries claim their attention, regardless of Age, gender, social class, educational background, etc. For this reason there can be no experts in natural beauty, at least not in the sense that design experts understand their expertise. A biologist may show me a fascinating structure that I did not know before, a botanist may point me to an attractive detail of a flower shape that I would have overlooked without it, but neither of them have to explain to me what is beautiful about it, I see or feel that even without them. And if that wasn't the case, no matter how many explanations they could explain to me: Beauty in the Kantian sense cannot be proven, but neither does it need any proof.
It is undisputed that such unanimity in the field of design, similar to that in the fine arts, is nowhere near given. Anyone who has ever visited a contemporary furniture fair knows that the range of what is touted as practical and elegant by designers and manufacturers and apparently also perceived as being so by consumers is precisely the chaos of fashions and tastes that Professor Götz sees his readers in front of wanted to preserve 115 years ago. In the aesthetic-theological furor of my youth I would have seen it as well - today I have to admit that I find it a thousand times more exciting to observe this tumultuous juxtaposition of conflicting forms than for the thousandth time the monotonous Thonet, cantilever and Eames chair parades that you can find in practically every design museum.

But isn't there a consensus here after all? Isn't the fact that design collections look almost identical worldwide, not clear proof that »good form« does exist, but unfortunately only in the museum consensus of selected connoisseurs? At the risk of repeating myself, I keep up my counter-question: What kind of beauty is that that only trained connoisseurs like? Why doesn't everyone feel it? As is well known, millions of tourists spend their holidays in Venice year in and year out, but avoid the neighboring Mestre. Are these all people who, thanks to "thorough training", know how to appreciate the beauty of this place and its architecture? Or do they just follow, as is often said, the well-trodden path of the stupid herd who ruthlessly trample down the cultural heritage and you could make them just as happy with Las Vegas? (And even if: Why are we so sure that it is more cultivated to visit Venice?) To be honest, I don't think that such a universal aesthetic deficiency thesis can be meaningfully maintained. When the Renaissance architect Sebastiano Serlio praised the perfection of the proportions of the Roman pantheon in the sixteenth century, he wrote that their effect was so impressive that visitors to the building “even if they are otherwise only of mediocre stature, acquire an inexplicable demeanor and beauty. 11 This is as close as possible to the automatism that Kant speaks of, and at the same time includes all promises that have ever been made in the name of "good form". Why is the basic tone of the literature on the subject of home design so resigned? Why is the good form spoken of there not just as universally contagious?


Perhaps it has to do with the fact that in this discourse tradition, in order to be allowed to be considered good, the form must not only be beautiful and functional, but also morally excellent at the same time. So it is not enough that you please, you should please for the right reasons. I want to illustrate this with three historical examples. My first example comes again from interior decoration, the February 1894 issue of which is dedicated to the "modern room gothic" which was apparently less popular with customers than other retro styles. In the course of this, a popular pedagogical style furniture manufacturer from Breslau, who broke a lance for the good neo-Gothic form, also made a brief statement. The Middle Ages, which he made in his factory, he assured me, had nothing to do with the outrageous fashion products that his competitors threw on the market: “The kind of Gothic I introduced can only find its justified existence in the purposely most elementary construction , and I am not at all in harmony with the many other so-called Gothic objects that are now circulating in the business world, which have emerged from the tangle of style conglomerates of recent years and with our German nature, as far as it leans towards the practical side The only thing in common is that I always liked to reject these products in order to put the simple, the real in its place. "
Ten years later, the magazine received a graphic and publishing facelift. It now called itself just interior decoration, so it had deleted the arts and crafts from the title, and instead of Neo-Gothic or Neo-Renaissance, which were now regarded as short-lived fads, it now resolutely opted for Art Nouveau. The March 1900 issue showed designs by the Darmstadt architect Patriz Huber, whose sweeping style shows what an aesthetic landslide had taken place within a few years. The most extensive article, however, dealt critically with misguided decorative artists who, incomprehensibly, did not rely on floral liveliness, but rigorously renounced any form of jewelry. The reviewer's judgment was devastating: »In their creations they display an excessive, deliberate simplicity, a simplicity that vividly reminds one of the well-known farmer's tables and chairs in the early 1970s. This […] manner […] is an aberration. Art should not only be simple, it should also be true. Such quaker-like simplicity in a wealthy house does not correspond to the facts, but is in contradiction with them, and that is why it repels us: that is no longer art, but artificiality, calculated and therefore insulting simplicity. "13
One last example to conclude, this time the leap in time goes over 50 years. The sheet is now called Architektur und Wohnform, so it only bears the interior decoration in the secondary title, now considers Art Nouveau to be a passing fad and presents itself as deliberately simple, not just in terms of the graphic presentation. In the February 1949 edition, the architecture professor Richard Döcker from Stuttgart complained about the once again lost level of furniture design: »We do not approve of the clarity and simplicity of furniture, the cleanliness of functionally developed design of things […] Findings. It is better to replace this with stunted baroque, by overloading, expensive kitsch and tastelessness, one takes refuge in the romance of the farmhouse parlor, the Biedermeier era, etc., instead of reflecting on the topic of the task and the created as a document for today's way of life, for one's own Level and lore of people in our age. [...] There is a lack of standards, goals, and attitude. […] Authenticity, level - that would initially be simplicity, honesty in material, form and manufacture, as well as meaningful fulfillment of use. «14


I could have continued this list of similar passages in any density up to the present day, but I think the selection is sufficient to adequately orchestrate my final thought. The quotations all suggest that when judging the design of everyday objects, contrary to what is usually claimed, not only aesthetic and functional properties are in question. All of the sample texts I have cited explicitly address the question of what makes a designed shape a good shape. And in all of them it is answered by referring the respective form discursively to ethical qualities, that is, to associate it with virtues, and in this way to be recognized as the result of an "attitude" that is felt to be exemplary. The fact that I chose honesty and simplicity is no coincidence, but rather reflects the frequency with which one comes across these terms in literature. For the longest time in design history, an attitude of affinity for questions, programmatically unsentimental rationality was considered to be decisive for the design of private living space (and, interestingly, not only with unconditional modernists, but also with committed modern skeptics). It is still upheld in the relevant literature, but the spectrum of possible attitudes to which one can appeal as an author has steadily broadened over the past three decades, so that it now contains some tones that were in the heroically rigorous phase of the German Furniture designs that would have been unimaginable until the late 1960s, such as irony, casualness or even programmatic lack of seriousness.So whoever, when asked about the success of design, first thinks of the timeless, universal beauty of the classic, which, in Kant's sense, is reflected and enjoyed "as form" for oneself and without any need for further verbalization, runs the risk of one, if not the central quality, which is constantly talked about in discourses about successful design, not even to be seen. There, “good form” does not only mean in any way “successful” in terms of design, but always at the same time meaningful, and above all ethically meaningful form.
I don't mean to say that purely formal considerations - blue or red? Shiny or matte? Edge or curve? - would not play a role in conversation and judgment about design. Otherwise, product design classes could just as easily be taken over by moral philosophers in the future and that, with all the confidence in this discipline, would probably not be a good idea. I just want to point out that aesthetic evaluations in discourses about design usually cannot do without a strong ethical component. Because in contrast to the context-free, unproblematic consensual encounter with the natural beauty, it is not enough here that I simply like something, that is at best the starting point for a discussion. The question of good form rather asks whether I should like something. This is only possible because designed form, in contrast to the unproblematic consensual natural beauty, is perceived as symbolic, that is, as something that refers to something else and, in the last resort, to a certain attitude towards life. Just like the form of art but also that of fashion, both of which constitute similar reference contexts, one can, yes, one must read the form of a piece of furniture. This is often so easy for us that we do not even notice the hermeneutic work that we are doing when, for example, we characterize a tubular steel armchair from the Bauhaus era as “functional”, “honest” and “simple”. Only when we meet people who perceive the same form as "repellent", "strained" and "uncomfortable" does it become clear that we are not dealing with the autonomous, clearly identifiable gestalt qualities of those in the "theory of the." good form «is the topic.
If this analysis is correct, then we should say goodbye to this theory and no longer perceive the social dissent on design issues as an inexplicable scandal to constantly complain about the cultural man, but simply as the zero line of normality: a good piece of furniture, Richard Döcker demanded in 1949 that there should be a "document for today's way of life," "for one's own level and knowledge of people in our age." namely not in terms of standards, goals, posture. On the contrary, there are even more than enough of them; unfortunately, they can rarely be reconciled with one another. After all, there is no such thing as a "life form of our age" in the singular - I honestly even doubt that there is such a thing as an "age" in the singular. In any case, there are certainly innumerable possible forms of life and, accordingly, innumerable possible ethical attitudes that one can equally argue for, without our having a criterion that would give us clarity as to which one now has to take specifically. It is therefore no coincidence that the »theory of good form« originates from the 19th century: it was only the pluralization of taste that made such debates necessary.
If design is what can be represented in a discourse as an amalgam of aesthetic charm and ethical attitude, if in a quality judgment about a design object this is conceived of as an aesthetic embodiment of ethical values, then we should say goodbye to the dubious expertise postulate from which the legions of aesthetic itinerant preachers in matters of good taste in furnishings still derive their marching orders to this day. I believe that this would not least have beneficial effects on the self-image of design museums. Their task would then no longer consist in the missionary work of the aesthetically unbelievers as the guardian of the one canon; instead, they would first of all have the task of depicting the design worlds of the present in all their confusing diversity. For an institution that has always relied on rigorous selection and scarcity under the sign of what is supposedly permanent, that would be an interesting challenge. If one would like to derive an educational mandate from this demand - which in turn is of course also an expression of an ethical attitude - then at best it is to show how one can endure this diversity. Because, as I experience painfully almost every day, this is still anything but an easy exercise.