SXSW remains consistent in their ability to pull together utterly outstanding line-up of speakers, talking about utterly outstanding things. This year, my favorite presentation was Arrogance in Design, a presentation by Jonty Sharples.
Ok, first things first: how great is the name Jonty Sharples? Add to that the fact that his twitter handle is @gringomoses and you realize this guy has cornered the market on awesome human taxonomy.
His presentation was fantastic not just because he was a great speaker with a wonderful speaking style, not just because his slides we utterly gorgeous examples of design in their own right, but because he had a point, and a good one: Design needs to stop being so arrogant. That’s a message for “big D design” for those of you playing along at home.
He pointed to examples of high design like Phillipe Stark’s rocket-shaped juicer, or an angular Alessi teapot that just don’t fucking work. Seriously, designers, just stop it.
On the other end of the design-as-art spectrum, he pointed to hyper-utilitarian objects like seating on trains that were rendered unusable, uncomfortable, and unconscionable as the desire to pack more passengers onto the train (and maximize profits) outpaced the passenger’s basic needs. to
Finally, through experience, one gains a combination of insight, humility, and confidence that helps counteract this arrogance in your work and in the greater design context.
It was altogether a worthwhile lesson and I’m very glad I got the chance to see it.