The idea of ‘good design’ is out of fashion. In 1949, Max Bill toured post-war Europe with his exhibition Die gute Form which showcased examples of modernist design to educate the taste of regular people. Today, several post-modernisms later, we are distrustful of such an enterprise. We realised that the traditional notion of ‘good design’ originates from an almost exclusively white, male, and western perspective that is being rightfully questioned today.
In this workshop, we want to explore different notions of bad design — across times, across cultures. Together we will analyze the different meanings the term can have in aesthetics, ethics, and functionality, come up with some „rules” for bad design and playfully explore how they work in the design process.
Of course, we are aware that „bad design” is a deeply subjective term. Aesthetics are fluid and notions like functionality endlessly debatable. However, even the most open-minded and post-modern designer disapproves of some designs. Where does this disapproval come from? Which aspects of our education, cultural background, peer group, and personal history contribute to our idea of bad design? Does our relationship to what we consider „bad design” change at all when we sharply analyze the roots of our disapproval? And what – if anything – can we learn from bad design?
The practical output of the workshop participants will be entries to an imaginary design competition named „House of a Bad Designer”, modelled on the 1901 contest „House of an Art-Lover” for which Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald submitted the most famous entry.
This workshop is aimed at people interested in analysing the notion of bad design and exploring the possibilities of working outside their personal framework of aesthetics and functionality. A background in graphic design, interface design, product design, or architecture is helpful, but not necessary.
A laptop with an installed layout program.
Day 1: Introduction, input lectures and discussion
Day 2: Research and analysis of „bad design” objects
Day 3–4: Working on entries for the bad design competion ?
Day 5: Finishing touches and final presentation
Bernd Grether studied graphic design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd. His practice focuses on editorial design and visual identities. Since 2015, he has been working as an assistant professor for the Information Design class at the Berlin Unversity of the Arts.
Sam Kim is a graphic designer who is specialized in the design and art direction of visual identities. He works with a focus on strong visual language and systematic implementation. His projects are often developed in close collaboration with the client, from the initial concept to the final realization. He studied at University of the Arts Berlin in the class of Visual Systems from 2011 to 2016. Currently, he is working as a freelance designer based in Berlin and Hamburg.