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It takes a switch to turn off the spotlight

Giovanni Innella

Co-Investigators: Professor Paul Rodgers and Dr Nicholas Spencer, School of Design

Is Design today more concerned with profile than product, viewers than users and media than manufacturer and, if so, what impact will this have on the next generation of designers and, indeed, the future of design?

This question forms the basis of a short essay recently published by Giovanni and has shaped Giovanni’s on-going research which asks; “What has a Designer Become?”


When asked which of the objects he designed was his favourite, Italian design maestro, Achille Castiglioni responded, “The object I'm proudest of? A switch for an electric lead I designed thirty years ago with my brother Pier Giacomo. It was produced in large numbers and bought for its formal qualities, but no one knows who made the design...”

What Castiglioni was talking about can, in a positive sense, be defined as design anonymity and utilitarianism. Navigating through magazines, websites and festivals, anonymity nowadays seems to be the designer’s greatest fear; while the designer’s relationship with utilitarianism is ambiguous – is it their biggest ambition or their biggest oversight?


This article was first published at Take It or Leave It / Design Economics, editors: Hadas Zemer Ben-Ari and Freek Lomme, the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2011 and distributed during Dutch Design Week

Published online in January 2012 Edition of Design Philosophy Politics, the allied online Journal of Design Philosophy Papers