(Un) Neutral – Design Now!


Design as a discipline developed in conjunction with the industrial revolution and the expansion of mechanical means of production. Modernism began with the urge to give new meaning to industrial products and evolved into a social and cultural transformation, ending with the “international style” and developing the concept of the universal standard: The idea that everyone could fit in a unified matrix.  

Fortunately, living in a globalized world means that we are becoming more and more aware of the personal differences that define who we are as humans and as individuals. The future of design will depend on the definition, investigation, and rethinking of more extensive infrastructures to plug in tailored solutions. A future vision for the bathroom entails developing a future vision of water collection, separation of bodily excrements and water recycling.  

Having a vision for the bathroom of the future means thinking about the inclusivity of gender, cultures, and different age groups as well as that of other than human creatures affected by our ways of living. The excessive use of water and the separate collection of solid and liquid excrements are subjects that could and should be addressed immediately to limit environmental harm. Thinking of the future of the bathroom means conceiving the cleaning and care for the body not necessarily relegated to one room. Why not as part of the public space as, for instance, in Japanese onsen? In this way who needs help can ask for it.  

As designers, we should also remember that not everything can be addressed on a product level. Courageous governance and new intelligent business models are what we all need to develop innovative projects. When the commissions we receive are totally meaningless or, in fact, insulting, we should all learn to say no. A few years ago, we were asked if we wanted to design gender-oriented furniture for kids. We felt pity for the commissioner and their narrow view of the world. 

During the European economic expansion after the World War II, numerous exhibitions focused on what “good design” is. These were attempts to educate citizens on the positive impact of design. What we need the most today is to educate the commissioner, the producers, and the politicians. Only in this way design will no longer be treated as a form of styling: Design isn’t about focusing on object typologies or interior design but instead on what it means to be human on this planet. 

Andrea Trimarchi & Simone Farresin are jury of jumpthegap®, Roca’s International Design Contest, for which participants are invited to submit their designs between 3 May and 6 September. For more info visit: www.jumpthegap.net 

MAIN IMAGE: DZEKxFormafantasma: ExCinere, a collection of volcanic ash-glazed tiles. Photo © Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of Dzek