“Design is a response to social change.” –George Nelson
Certainly, a lot of social change has taken place since George Nelson, Herman Miller’s revolutionary lead designer in the 40s and 50s, said those words. The way offices function and the way people work has changed dramatically.
So, what might contemporary artists and designers have to say about design and social change? I quizzed a student and a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) about their response to George Nelson’s statement and about the relationship between art and design in general. Here’s what they had to say:
Theo Bunch, a senior at KCAI, said that, while design can be a response to social change, it’s also a response to life. “Design is part of life. We’re always changing,” he said. “Design, like art, represents human expression and creative thought. It’s planned, intelligent, creative thinking. Design is applied art, like physics is applied math.
According to Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, associate professor and chair of the Fiber Department, “Artists and designers have always responded to the world around them, this action is often a reaction to the status quo, to the current culture. What happens in the world of art and design is a response to societal norms, and social change can be the outcome.
So, there you have it, a contemporary reflection on a past visionary. Let the discussion continue…