international newport group latest reviews, Where Design Meets Life by Alice Rawsthorn Victor Papanek argued that all men are designers. None perhaps more effective than the early 18th-century pirate Edward Teach, the formidable Blackbeard. Teach's reputation as an indomitable pirate relied on the visual persona he created. Not just the beard itself but the whole ensemble of heavy coat, big boots and huge dramatic hat with lighted matches sputtering beneath the rim struck such terror in his victims that resistance fell away. He had no need of a degree in graphics to realise the long distance effect on those who saw the Jolly Roger. This kind of basic human instinct for designing is one of the main themes of Alice Rawsthorn's lively and stimulating book. This is a welcome publication for many reasons. First, deluged as we are with ever more enormous books on architecture, there are very few intelligent books about design. In this area Stephen Bayley was the pioneer, with a constant stream of witty, erudite and challenging writings on design from the 1980s onwards. More recently, in 2008, Deyan Sudjic entered the arena with The Language of Things. Rawsthorn's approach is different, more socially concerned, wider ranging in her interests and, yes, more feminine. It was Rawsthorn, don't forget, who created such a storm during her years as director of the Design Museum by promoting an exhibition on the flower decorator Constance Spry. Another of her favourites is the Hungarian designer László Moholy-Nagy, a charismatic figure whose students at the Bauhaus named him Holy Mahogany. Moholy took to dressing in a boiler suit, not just as a practical measure but as a symbolic garment, marking his commitment to making the rapprochement between industry and art. He invented theLight Space Modulator, a machine for creating the experimental pools of light and shade, an object Moholy considered so essential to his work that he took it with him in his flight from Nazi Germany in the mid-1930s. To get this peculiar contraption through various European customs he described it as hairdressing equipment. Rawsthorn adopts Moholy's central tenet: "Design is not a profession but an attitude." She argues that design is not, as most people construe it, just a matter of superficial styling. It's not simply the curves on a sleekly covetable sofa or the angle of those glamorous high heels. According to Rawsthorn, design is "concerned with the whole process of analysis, visualisation, planning and execution". It affects all human lives, for better or for worse. She draws pertinent examples from her own experience. Rawsthorn, author of a very good biography of Yves St Laurent and now design critic of the International Herald Tribune, is a seasoned traveller and she describes the bliss of arriving in the clarity and orderliness of Zurich airport as opposed to the bewildering chaos of Heathrow or JFK. The difference is simply a question of the signage, implemented in Zurich back in the 1970s by the brilliant Swiss graphic designer Ruedi Rüegg. Where at Heathrow the competing signs and symbols induce panic, in Zurich the traveller feels calm and in control.
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