Category Archives: Design Business

The Cost of Design UK


Design History Annual Conference 2019: The Cost of Design
Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
5-7 September 2019

‘The Cost of Design’ explores the complexities of the historic and contemporary relationship between design and economy. Design is both influenced by, and can shape, economic systems. Both ‘cost’ and ‘economy’ are to be understood beyond their financial implications. ‘Cost’ is en-visaged as the exchange of resources, meaning or value. The conference looks at how design sustains, accelerates or challenges dominant systems and examines the resulting social, cultur-al, economic or environmental consequences that arise. It examines the roles of design in rap-idly changing economies, examining the relationship between technological advances and the economy. ‘The Cost of Design’ also looks at design’s relationship to the political economy and the global/regional/local exchanges occurring within. Design practices can react to, resist, challenge or seek to influence economies that are viewed to negatively impact in some way. The ways in which design has been used to affect positive change within economic systems will also be examined.
The conference welcomes historic, contemporary and interdisciplinary approaches to the top-ic, and invites contributions from design historians, scholars, and academics in related fields, as well as design practitioners and educators, museum professionals and students.

Topics might include:

Technological and changing economies
·       Impact of automation
·       Digitisation of design culture
·       Hybridisation of physical and virtual spaces

Political economies and global/local exchange
·       Supply chains, manufacture and relocation vis-à-vis geopolitical and cultural borders
·       Challenges to/persistence of dichotomies of North/South; East/West; Centre/Periphery
·       Dynamics of transcultural (intra- or extra regional) design
·       The relationship between design and soft power
·       Appropriation and Copyright

Resistance, sharing economies and design
·       Design for “post-growth” economies
·       Political design in a national/regional/local context
·       Artisanal/craft solutions
·       Indigenous autonomy
·       Designing for wellbeing, happiness and social values

Individual papers of 20 minutes, or proposals for full panels of three papers related to the top-ics listed above or theme of ‘The Cost of Design’ will be considered. Panel proposals must in-clude abstracts for all three papers, in addition to a short description of the panel theme.
All proposals will be double-blind reviewed and selected by the conference committee.

Submissions are due Monday, 25 February 2019 and should:
1.      Be sent in the form of a Microsoft Word document (.doc, .docx)
2.      Not exceed 300 words
3.      Include the title of the paper
4.      Include the author’s full name, title, position and institution
5.      Include a brief professional biography (not exceeding 50 words)
Submissions should be sent to to the attention of the Academic Convener.
The Design History Society at


Paris Design Summit


How to Rent Your Ideas to Fortune 500 Companies

I first met Stephen Key in 2001. Two months later, I used a few recommendations of his — shared over the customary gin tonic — to help a friend double overseas sales in less than two weeks in New Zealand and Australia.

How? Licensing. It can be a beautifully elegant model.

Stephen is somewhat famous in inventing circles for two reasons. First, he consistently earns millions of dollars licensing his ideas to companies like Disney, Nestle, and Coca-Cola. Second, he is fast. It seldom takes him more than three weeks to go from idea to a signed deal. Continue reading

The Intergalactic Design Guide

“Design has built global brands, disrupted industries, and transformed our lives with technology. It has also contributed to the complex challenges we face today. In The Intergalactic Design Guide, business strategist and designer Cheryl Heller shows how social design can help address our most pressing challenges, from poverty to climate change.

Social design offers a new approach to navigate uncertainty, increase creativity, strengthen relationships, and develop our capacity to collaborate. Innovative leaders like Paul Farmer, Oprah Winfrey, and Marshall Ganz have instinctively practiced social design for decades. Heller has worked with many of these pioneers, observing patterns in their methods and translating them into an approach that can bring new creative energy to any organization. From disrupting the notion of “expert” by seeking meaningful input from many voices to guiding progress through open-ended questions instead of five-year plans, social design changes how humans relate to each other, with powerful positive impacts.

The Intergalactic Design Guide explains eleven common principles, a step-by-step process, and the essential skills for successful social design. Nine in-depth examples—from the CEO of the largest carpet manufacturer in the world to a young entrepreneur with a passion for reducing food waste—illustrate the social design process in action.

Social design is a new kind of creative leadership that generates both traditional and social value, and can change the way we all view our work. Whether you are launching a start-up or managing a global NGO, The Intergalactic Design Guide provides both inspiration and practical steps for designing a more resilient and fulfilling future.”
Visit: Island Press

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The growth and influence that design has on business

With a background in theater and anthropology, design consultant Martha Cotton was right at home on the Design Indaba stage. Her talk probed the audience to think more about the relationship between design and business.

“I feel like we are at a really interesting and crucial moment as a global design community. Because we are at a crossroads, our choice is for people to lean in and cross the path together; or to find it all pretty scary, worry and lean back,” says Cotton.

Cotton, who is a consultant for Fjord North America, also works as a professor at Northwestern University where she teaches design research.

She says of her business clients, “my clients … have started to really look towards the way me and my design colleagues look at the world and solve problems and say we would like to learn to be more like you.”

She gave the Design Indaba audience the challenge of creating a prototype for a concept of their choice. The crowd enjoyed the interactiveness, some coming through with brilliant models and business ideas.

For Cotton, the importance of the exercise was to show the difference in thinking, as many people chose to do the design first, where others thought up a business plan before anything else.

But in the end she showed off the collaborative process between those two fields, mimicking the exact interchange happening between industries right now.

“What you have done is demonstrated the mindsets of a designer, you collaborated, you worked as teams,” she explains.

Adding: “ When you have a collaborative mindset, you actively crave the input and inspiration of those around you and you realize the inputs of you as an individual are less important of the greater whole.”



Design Thinking Is Conservative


September 05, 2018


When it comes to design thinking, the bloom is off the rose. Billed as a set of tools for innovation, design thinking has been enthusiastically and, to some extent, uncritically adopted by firms and universities alike as an approach for the development of innovative solutions to complex problems.  But skepticism about design thinking has now begun to seep out onto the pages of business magazines and educational publications.

The criticisms are several: that design thinking is poorly defined; that the case for its use relies more on anecdotes than data; that it is little more than basic commonsense, repackaged and then marketed for a hefty consulting fee. As some of these design thinking concepts have sloshed into the world of policy, and social change efforts have been re-cast as social innovation, the queasiness around the approach has also begun to surface in the field of public policy.

However, most critics have missed the main problem with design thinking. It is, at its core, a strategy to preserve and defend the status-quo — and an old strategy at that. Design thinking privileges the designer above the people she serves, and in doing so limits participation in the design process. In doing so, it limits the scope for truly innovative ideas, and makes it hard to solve challenges that are characterized by a high degree of uncertainty — like climate change — where doing things the way we always have done them is a sure recipe for disaster.

A New Name for an Old Method

To understand why design thinking is fundamentaly conservative, it’s important to look at its antecedents.  Although it is often advertised as a method that is as innovative as the solutions it promises to produce, it bears an uncanny resemblance to an earlier model of problem-solving, celebrated in the 1970s and 1980s for the superior solutions it was supposed to produce. Called the “rational-experimental” approach to problem solving, it was a simplified and popularized version of the scientific method, in much the same way that design thinking is a stylized — some say “dumbed down” — version of the methods designers use.  It, too, was enthusiastically embraced by managers and policy makers, and was invoked to reshape practices in firms and government.

The similarities between the steps in the two methods are so literal that design thinking can come across as a knock-off.  Rational-experimental problem solving was built around a series of stages, each leading up to the identification of a solution. Likewise, design thinking is generally described as being made up of modes, stepping stones in the design process, with each mode reflecting a different aspect of design thinking.

Rational-experimental problem solving begins with a presumption that the search for a solution starts by relying on existing data about the problem. Design thinking, in a slight divergence from the original model, suggests instead that the designer herself should generate information about the problem, by drawing on her experience of the people who will be affected by the design through the empathetic connection that she forges with them. This mode is called, in the “can-do” imperative tense that design thinkers favor, “empathize.”

That is where the procedural differences between the two approaches end.  The next step in both approaches, called “definition” or “define,” is to define the problem or design challenge.  Then, both approaches move toward developing a theory about how to solve the problem or design challenge.  In rational-experimental thinking, this step is labeled the “hypothesis” phase, while design-thinking calls this phase “ideate.” Next, both methods advise trying out the proposed solution. It’s called “implementation” in the older approach whereas the newer version exhorts adherents to “prototype.” (Though similar, the latter requires more Post-It notes.)  The final step in both methods is to evaluate the effectiveness of the experiment. In both the “evaluation” phase of the rational-experimental model and in the “test” mode of design thinking, this step sets in motion the iterative aspect of these approaches to problem solving, with adherents encouraged to use the information they glean from this phase to return to earlier phases of the process in order to refine either their hypotheses and their solutions, or both.

Protecting the Powerful

Both design thinking and the rational-experimental approach implicitly establish problem solving as the remit of the powerful, especially when it comes design for social ends.  They turn the everyday ability to solve a problem into a rarified practice, limited only to those who self-consciously follow a specialized methodology.  In fact, problem-solving is always messy and most solutions are shaped by political agendas and resource constraints. The solutions that win out are not necessarily the best — they are generally those that are favored by the powerful or at least by the majority. Both rational experimentation and design thinking provide cover for this political calculus. They make a process that is deeply informed by social and economic structures seem merely technical or aesthetic.

There has been long been a push to make problem-solving and design more open and democratic. Experiments with participatory policy design — from participatory budgeting to public consultations on policies ranging from zoning ordinances to bureaucratic reforms — have long trundled alongside more restrictive practices policy design. Likewise, designers and social innovators have sought feedback from the populations they target, and have even looked to harvest the creative ideas generated by users who have improved products by tinkering with them. However, even in these more open processes, the designer or policy maker ultimately decides which ideas and preferences are included in the solution.

One difference between design thinking and rational-experimental problem solving is that the former names and celebrates the ambiguity that is a precursor to any creative design solution. In some ways, that’s a good thing. However, it reaffirms the privileged role of the designer, positioning her as the vessel through which all the implicit understandings that make it into the final design must first pass. She is the instrument that transforms messy ambiguity into the clean lines of an elegant solution.  Because the input she brings into the design process can’t be articulated, she is to some extent liberated from the requirement to explain and defend the rationale for her design choices.

Moreover, because the designer herself generates the tacit understandings she uses by connecting empathetically with potential users — the “empathize” mode — whatever needs of product users and communities she perceives are refracted through her personal experience and priorities. As any ethnographer worth her salt will admit, this subjectivity is inevitable, and that is why disciplines that rely on empathetic engagement for data collection stress the importance of paying attention to the researcher’s identity and political positioning. The design thinking method does not stipulate rigorous attention to positionality, however. This omission signals that the designer, as creative visionary, is somehow suspended above the fray of bias, blind spots, and political pressure.

Preserving the Status Quo

The trouble with privileging the role of the designer, or even a small circle of designers, in this way is that it radically narrows the potential for innovation. The value of ambiguity stems from the array of meanings that bump up against each other when problem is still undetermined, and from the opportunities for new connections that those collisions evoke. Design thinkers celebrate these connections, especially those that span very different perspectives, disciplines, and categories of things, and view this kind of abductive reasoning as core to creativity.

When the designer acts as a gatekeeper for the meanings that are included in the design process, the potential for connections becomes limited not only to what the designer views as significant, but also to the relationships she can imagine. If the design space were flung open to meanings that users and communities view as significant, we would surely read fewer stories of design interventions gone wrong — such as whimsically designed water pumps that were abandoned to rust because they were unusable, innovative distribution systems for mosquito nets that prevent most people from accessing them, and the distortionary effect of shoes distributed to the poor as a marketing pitch to the rich, to name just a few.

The political dimensions of design thinking are problematic enough on their own, but the method is particularly ill-suited to problems in rapidly changing areas or with lots of uncertainty, since once a design is complete the space that the method  opens for ambiguity and new alternatives is shut down. Climate change is one such area. The natural environment is changing at an astonishing rate, in ways that are likely to be unprecedented in human history, and that we are unable to fully predict, with each new scientific discovery revealing that we have far underestimated the complexity of the systems that are at play and the shifts on the horizons may very well mean the end of our existence. Yet, design-thinking approaches, adopted with much fanfare to deal with the challenge, have offered formulaic and rigid solutions. Design thinking has allowed us to celebrate conventional solutions as breakthrough innovations and to continue with business as usual.

Unsuited to Uncertainty

After Hurricane Sandy caused more than $60 billions of damages in the New York region, the Obama administration launched the Rebuild by Design competition to generate new solutions for reconstruction that would rehabilitate devastated infrastructure and protect the region from the fierce storms that Hurricane Sandy and the best climate science presaged.  The competition billed itself as using “collaborative, design-driven problem-solving to help communities and cities build resilience,” a process that would allow urban areas to “overcome existing creative and regulatory barriers by cultivating collaboration between designers, researchers, community members, government officials and subject-matter experts.” True to form, the 10 teams of international designers selected to participate in the competition held numerous community consultations, where they gleaned information about what mattered most to residents in the recovery process. The design teams combined this feedback with data about the physical damage and the economic prospects of the region in several iterative cycles of design and produced half a dozen designs that were allocated funding for implementation.

The lion’s share of the almost $1 billion on offer in the competition was awarded to the Big U, a proposal for a ten-mile segmented wall, made of landscaped bridging berms and moveable gates, to protect the lower half of Manhattan and the very valuable real estate locate there. Now rebranded as the Dryline and projected to cost anywhere between $1 billion and $3 billion to complete, the wall would protect the city against the ravages of storm the size of Sandy, but likely not much larger. Current projections of storm-force sea-level rise suggest that the wall will guard against storm surges only through 2050, after which point the walls of the Dryline may turn into the sides of bathtub, holding floodwater inside the city.  In the short three intervening decades, valuable real estate will continue to be built behind the seeming protection of the wall, increasing the risks to the city when the barriers are inevitably breached.  The first phase of construction on the Dryline will be in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, alongside one of the last pockets of affordable housing on the island, and the worry is that as the manicured berm adds a new public park to the area, residents — many of whom participated in good faith in the repeated community consultations — will be displaced from their neighborhoods by a wave not of water but of gentrification.

In selecting the Big U/Dryline, Rebuild by Design affirmed the political, economic, and physical status-quo. The design thinking process yielded a wall, an ordinary if costly piece of infrastructure that will hold back the waters for a while and allow residents to pretend that the sea most projections believe will flood a substantial portion of Manhattan will remain in its basin. Behind the ramparts, the city will be able to hum along as usual, with the value of real estate continuing to rise, and with the poor and middle class continuing to face displacement from the expensive heart of Manhattan to the outer edges of New York.

A Radically Open Alternative

Happily, the Rebuild by Design process also produced a solution that might offer an alternative to design thinking as the premier vehicle for innovation. The Living Breakwaters proposal is to create a “necklace” of small islands along south shore of Staten Island, one of the areas that suffered the worst erosion effects of Superstorm Sandy. Breakwaters are generally piles of rubble, amassed to slow waves barreling to shore, but the proposal, which was awarded  comparatively modest seed funding, suggests using them to revive marine ecologies and to turn them into hosts for all kinds of life, including plant, animal, and human.  The breakwaters are constructed with concrete boxes that offer lodging for oysters, seals, fish, algae, and other marine species, and they provide a physical and symbolic platform for educational and economic engagement with the ecosystem. With its floating schools, the project prioritizes the needs of the next generation, and positions the breakwaters as part of an ecological heritage that the youngest can claim and fashion. The premise of the proposal is that the way to address climate change is not to barricade against it, but instead to embrace the change that it represents and to reimagine catastrophe as an opportunity to create a new ecological future.

Both the design process and the solution itself are radically open. Residents in the area continue to engage in the design process, not as providers of feedback to designers but as lay designers themselves. They help shape both the physical elements of the solution and the social and economic projects that they support. The water hubs, envisioned in the proposal as a land-based necklace of physical spaces that follows the arc of the breakwaters, are deliberately left undetermined in the design, inviting residents to define both their form and their function. The project is radically agnostic about the water hubs, and contemplates uses in the different centers as wide ranging as a business incubator, a lighthouse, a lab for the study of wildlife, a kayak depot, and a place of contemplation. Non-human life forms also assume an active role in the process by taking up residence in the breakwaters and remolding and expanding the physical “housing” components that the project provides them, and even attracting new species to the area, with the promise of abundant food and even perhaps balmier waters. By keeping the design process open, the Living Breakwaters project deliberately resists the closure that is so characteristic of completed design thinking solutions. The project entertains the possibility that the breakwaters will have to be reinvented as the seas around them rise. In much the same way that the project shelters the young, it protects nascent ideas by providing a protected space for the on-going and collaborative engagement with the ambiguity and uncertainly that climate change creates.

The aperture embodied in the Living Breakwaters project offers an alternative to the closure built into design thinking. It illustrates a design process where the designer is dethroned and where design is less a step-by-step march through a set of stages and more of a space where people can come together and interpret the ways that changing conditions challenge the meanings, patterns, and relationships that they had long taken for granted. That process of interpretation can be unpredictable, sometimes unwieldy in both form and in duration, impossible to chart, and often only visible in retrospect. But it is precisely this inchoate messiness that makes interpretation generative: the insights people stumble upon by accident or patch together on the fly not only provide the basis for innovative solutions. They also allow a complete re-imagination of what counts as a solution to begin with.

Elsewhere, I have called this approach “interpretive engagement,” and have described it as a process of collaborative and wide-ranging interpretation, where participants revisit the understandings they have about themselves and others, as well as about the changing world they live in. It represents a commitment to a process with no clear beginning and end, with a goal that is often no more explicitly defined than imaging and articulating new ways to meet changes that are still murky and immeasurable.

Interpretive engagement is not without tension, and the politics that shape design choices are dredged out in the back-and-forth between participants and often forcefully challenged. But this kind of interpretive engagement offers the possibility for radical innovation, not merely because the solutions it surfaces are often highly creative, but also because the solutions tend to be open and receptive to incremental adjustment. This openness extends and shelters interpretive engagement, because it welcomes people affected by the solution into the ongoing interpretive design process and invites them to amend the solution to better meet their need at any given moment.

The open, continuously transformed and transformative solutions supported by interpretive engagement represent a break with traditional approaches to problem solving — whether the approach is rational-experimental or design thinking. They allow us to engage with change, instead of barricading ourselves against it.

For companies, social innovators, and political actors, the recommendation to embrace a messy, inclusive process of interpretative engagement, to say nothing of championing open solutions that sustain and encourage participatory creativity with their design, may seem unworkable or profligate. But, as New Yorkers may discover, perhaps sooner than expected, the barricades that neat design thinking steps produce are no match for changes that we cannot yet imagine or fully comprehend.


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German Designer Dieter Rams wants Silicon Valley to stop copying his design.


Dieter Rams wants Silicon Valley to stop

In Gary Hustwit’s highly anticipated new documentary “Rams,” the legendary industrial designer indicts the world he helped create.

Dieter Rams wants Silicon Valley to stop
Dieter Rams [Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

Dieter Rams is done giving interviews, and Gary Hustwit can only poke at his tempeh hash with a laugh here and a sigh there, hoping he did the legend justice.

I sit with Hustwit in a chilly Chicago diner before screening the film later that night at its Midwestern premiere. Hustwit cannot know this documentary represents the last time Rams will speak to the press, of course, but Rams has certainly left him with that impression.

“He feels that’s the last interview he has to do. Seriously, he’s not doing any others,” says Hustwit. “I think he’s tired of talking and saying the same thing. He wants his books and this film going out and doing the talking.”

Dieter Rams [Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

You know Hustwit from his design trilogy of documentaries: Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized, about typefaces, industrial design, and architecture, respectively. Hustwit’s new film is not about a topic, but a person. Rams is a 75-minute profile of the most influential designer of our lifetimes–the architect-turned industrial designer whose team ushered in the modern era of consumer technology in the 1950s and ’60s at Braun, creating the de facto template of beautiful, usable minimalism upon which most devices are made today at companies across the globe.

Rams is known for saying that “good design is as little design as possible.” But in Rams, addressing a world that throws away its phones every two years and can’t look away from a screen, he’s tweaked the message a bit. “Less would be better everywhere,” he says.

If it is his last interview, though, Rams is a fitting mic drop that directly questions the design teams from companies like Apple and Facebook that have already lined up to see the film in idolization. “In a way, he’s kind of challenging the design world in this film, sort of laying down a challenge to do better,” says Hustwit.

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

Rams’s evolving philosophy regarding his own legacy is what drew Hustwit to profile the designer in the first place. The two first met when filming Objectified, and Rams revealed that, if he could do it all over again, he wouldn’t have become a designer, because design had been misused as a tool for excess. It’s an interview that would stick with Hustwit, even after his “design trilogy” was over. He always thought someone, perhaps a German filmmaker, would do the quintessential documentary on Dieter Rams. Then no one did.

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

“I could see the movie in my head. I could hear it,” says Hustwit. “Once I can see and hear a film that does not exist in my head, and think, ‘That would be amazing, I really want to watch that film!’–that kind of takes hold and pushes me to make it.”

Exactly how Hustwit courted Rams to be in the film is something he glosses over, even when pressed. What I gather is that Rams, now age 86, did not want to make the movie–he felt like he’d already talked enough. But Rams also hinted that the only way he’d consider making the film was if Hustwit himself directed it, which only put more pressure on Hustwit. “If I was the only one he was going to let do it, then I had a responsibility to actually, like, make it,” says Hustwit. So the moment Rams agreed, Hustwit booked a ticket to Germany and began his first week of filming.

Three and a half years later, we get a look at the resulting product.

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

In Rams, crisp cinematography, as poised as a T3 Pocket Radio, frames the designer through interviews in the two opposing worlds he primarily frequents. One is inside his home office, a heavenly shrine to his design that literally glows on screen. In this realm, Rams is almost a deity of minimalism, sitting amongst stark Vitsœ shelving and Braun equipment.

The other is outside his home, in a backyard, where deep green bonsai trees and a rich aqua pool flood your senses through the screen. In his office, Rams is an authority on design. But outside, he and his wife, Ingeborg, are gardeners, and both take turns giggling to the camera with delight of the natural. Where he is happiest, and why, isn’t even a question in your mind.

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

For the remainder of the film, Hustwit follows Rams to speaking engagements and museum exhibit openings, while digging deep into the history of Braun and the influential Ulm School of Design.

Through archival photos and footage, Braun’s sacred design team is outed as a jazz-loving, chain-smoking crew, obsessed with making stereos and lighters largely to satisfy self-interest as much as anything else. It’s clear that AMC missed the perfect opportunity for a German Mad Men spinoff.

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

“Were there any women on the design team?” Hustwit asks at one point during the film.

“Nein!” Rams shouts, mocking the ignorance of the times.

Indeed, the biggest surprise to anyone in the audience will likely be the same thing that surprised Hustwit himself: Rams, as buttoned up as he may appear, is hilarious.

At one point during the documentary, Rams is instructed to walk through the Vitra Design Museum and critique the extensive collection of priceless, influential chairs. He revels in the practice as only a designer in his golden years can. His shots at Frank Gehry and Philippe Starck–a perfect balance of academically grounded shade–filled the audience with deep belly laughs.

It’s also a moment that made me wonder who this movie was really made for. Hustwit’s design trilogy was actually posed to a more mainstream viewer–imparting, “hey, this is why fonts and buildings are important!”–which is an approach Hustwit attributes to his own outsider nature to the world of design. But I’m not sure a layperson could watch Rams and capture its full significance as a perfectly kerned “F U” to the contemporary design world.

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

That is because Rams clearly wasn’t made for normies; even Hustwit admits it was made for designers first. Many will be lured into this honeypot promising a rare peek into the world of a design god, only to be shamed for their complicity in the world he helped create. Over 75 minutes, Rams indicts himself, and his industry, for destroying the environment with objects people don’t need, and distracting the world with screens they cannot ignore. In what may be the film’s most damning moment, Rams walks into an Apple store in London, and looks at a tablet with a detached sadness, while lamenting that people don’t look each other in the eye anymore.

“I am of the opinion that all this digitization now is becoming more and more a part of our life. I think it diminishes our ability to experience things,” says Rams. “There are pictures that disappear, one after the other, without leaving traces up here [pointing to his head]. This goes insanely fast. And maybe that’s why we can, or we want to, consume so much. The world that can be perceived through the senses exudes an aura that I believe cannot be digitized. We have to be careful now, that we rule over the digital world, and are not ruled by it.”

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

As we wrap our lunch, Hustwit tells me how well the San Francisco premiere went two days earlier. 1,400 people bought out the theater, and nearly a thousand more people grabbed tickets for a second showing. “The whole Apple design team came, Facebook, everybody,” he says, still buzzing from the moment.

“I love that Apple and Facebook are there, and Dieter Rams is on screen yelling, ‘All this stuff you are creating is terrible!’” I respond.

“Totally. That’s why I do feel like it’s a challenge to the design world to reassess what we’re producing, why we’re producing it, and how we could do it better. Do we really need all this stuff?” asks Hustwit, in a way he knows his question isn’t even a question. “San Francisco is the center of the design world, packed with all these people, and they’re listening to this 86-year-old German guy in his backyard for an hour and a half, about like, how they’re fucking up. And they’re loving it, and they’re laughing!”

Hopefully, to the point of tears.

Rams is touring the U.S. and Europe now. You can buy tickets here. The film will be released to digital platforms this December.

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