André Gide once wrote that choosing is not so much to select but rather to exclude, this is very much what I have done in my shortlist of the best designers.
My short list will be short and I will begin this exercise by naming who I consider to be the greatest designer of them all : Leonardo Da Vinci, an exceptional conceptual designer, once more proving that you can be centuries ahead of your time from a conceptual standpoint but, you cannot escape the time frame you live in when it comes to formal expression. He may have invented the helicopter but, the drawing remains firmly anchored in the early XVIth century.
I’ll glide through the industrial revolution right to what turned out to be the most important movement of the XXth century, the Bauhaus school founded by the architect Walter Gropius and which assembled spectacular talents both in the teaching staff as well as students like Marcel Breuer, one of the giants of Modernism who was both a student and later a teacher. I have a soft spot for the creative vision of Charles Eames whose pronouncement « Constraints can be the designer’s best friend » has accompanied me throughout my design career, but also Dieter Rams who is a spiritual grandson of the Bauhaus movement. His 10 principles for good design remain remarkably to the point more than 30 years later.
« To be ahead of others is always to invite a flogging.» Carl Jung
Victor Papanek’s visionary book « Design for the Real World » is that of a pioneer in sustainable and humanitarian design, who was totally rejected by his peers in the early 70’s who could not accept his condemnation that designers in general were « producing shoddy, stylized work that wasted natural resources, aggravated the environmental crisis and that they ignored their social and moral responsibilities. » The design community much preferred the colorful message of the anti consumerist, if somewhat whimsical Memphis group, created in the early 80’s by Ettore Sottsass, who brought color and a spoonful of art to the Milan furniture fair. The movement did not however bring much constructive substance to design.
Eero Saarinen, Roger Tallon and Richard Sapper
My list of great designers also includes Eero Saarinen for the sublimed simplicity of his sweeping designs, as well as that great French designer Roger Tallon, so full of talent and bubbling with ideas, who was my hero when I was studying industrial design and, his industrial lathe the Gallic 16, was at the time my reference of good design. But I also loved the work of my friend Richard Sapper whose highly ingenious designs were both simple and sometimes full of surprises.
…and Ingo Maurer the magician
I could not end this non exhaustive list without naming a designer, Ingo Maurer, whose poetic vision transcends the limits of good design to feed the soul. Which brings me back to that wonderful quote from Walter Gropius who described the designer’s mission as : « To instill a soul in the product, stillborn from the machine ».
Patrick le Quément
A long experience as Senior Vice President of Renault Design as well as responsible for 4 years of Corporate Quality, he was also a Member of the Renault Board of Directors. Co-founder together with Maurille Larivière and Marc Van Peteghem of The SDS which has for a signature : « Design for Human Solutions ».
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