Freedom

Industry works with a rational vision of production and sales and imposes its rules on the designers who work for it. They have to adapt to the requirements and methods of industrial production. Their freedom is limited. Experimentation must ultimately produce results. However, new developments benefit from a certain slowness in research and in the design process. Traditional research allows this. The search for new developments – the (arts and) crafts have long since stopped using only materials from the past but are also incorporating high-tech innovations without renouncing their material basis – may progress with difficulty and an experiment may go wrong. The economic consequences are less drastic than in industry, where every adjustment to machines must be financially profitable. (11) Once the experiment is finished and has produced the desired result, it is still difficult to convince industry to take the project on board. Hella Jongerius has so much respect for the company Makkum, that was prepared to begin production of her porcelain B-set, a design in which she explicitly aimed for imperfection although the company has all the knowledge in house to deliver technically flawless work. (12)

Perfection/imperfection

Industrialisation creates the possibility of machine perfection and, at the same time, this possibility soon becomes a requirement. ‘In creating the machine, we have set before ourselves a positively inhuman standard of perfection. No matter what the occasion, the criterion of successful mechanical form is that it should look as if no human hand had touched it’, wrote Lewis Mumford in 1934. (13) Designers can therefore deliberately give the industrially manufactured object an imperfection, based on a conceptual attitude, or allow coincidental errors and play with the aesthetics of the imperfect. We see this, for example, in a number of designs by Droog Design, such as Bronto (1997), a children’s chair in which Richard Hutten allows the irregularities in the production process to radiate their own beauty. Imperfection is thus given a positive content and gives the product intellectual added value which industrial perfection cannot provide. Imperfection also makes the user aware of the relevance of the production process, a relevance that is not confined to traditional techniques (which do in fact often aim for a technically perfect finish) but which – including for Jongerius – can also be meaningful in a high-tech, industrial production context. (14) To allege that every designer must aim for perfection is therefore a disputed allegation, particularly if it is not clear what is meant by perfection. (15) However, when the search for imperfection becomes a trend that is fed more economically than conceptually, one may wonder where the ultimate added value lies.

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