Last October, shortly after our annual Masters of Design issue hit the streets, I got an email from Gadi Amit, president of the San Francisco strategic design firm, NewDealDesign LLC. NewDealDesign was one of the “design factories” profiled in that issue, and Gadi, a leading design thinker himself, had been at a party to celebrate our Masters in New York.
In the nicest possible terms, Amit gently took Fast Company to task for devoting so much space in that issue to the industry’s design super stars, and not enough to design for the “real world.”
“As humanity is close to realizing the limits of ‘progress’ in resources and environmental impact, and as the political scene is revolting in demand for better attention to main-street needs, I find it odd that the design leadership is still holding to a ‘trickle down’ design philosophy,” he wrote. “The notion is that mass-production design is second and inferior to that of the few design stars. Presumably they are serving humanity through their ‘fabulosity’, as they pave the path to other designers with innovative designs. In reality, these selected few are catering to a small and pampered crowd of the rich and famous, creating wasteful and undemocratic design that is seldom relevant or inspiring to the creation of real-world products. In reference to the point made by John Maeda in your panel discussion, one may think that if design has a valid, economically proven and effective methodology, it is surely to demonstrate it in mass-production, true industrial design, rather than a luxury condo project or the academic ivory tower. Designers have a role to play in dynamic and positive social growth. Designers should develop great and tangible tools to live, work and play.”
While Fast Company has always tried to strike a balance between the cutting edge and trend-setting and the more functional and mass-market, I had to agree that Gadi had a point–never more so than in October 2008, as we all watched in horror as the financial markets melted down. By Christmas, luxury goods had come to be seen as symbols of a wasteful and indulgent age that nearly brought us to the brink of economic ruin. The more I thought about his note, the more his words rang true.
So, after meeting Gadi for lunch in New York a few weeks ago, we decided to ask him to join us on the site to discuss what was roiling his cranium these days. This week, Amit will be the first of a series of guest bloggers whose ideas we will showcase on Fastcompany.com.
We gave Gadi one assignment: tell us what aggravates, inspires, or excites you. No holds barred. We hope you’ll enjoy reading his thoughts this week–and will chime in to agree, disagree, or simply add to the conversation.
Here are three great new projects from NewDealDesign, to give you a concrete idea of the design work Gadi’s firm does. First is the charging station for A Better Place; second, the FitBit gadget, a calorie-counter for physical activity, which I lust after; and third, the Dell hybrid, the computer company’s eco-remodeling of a standard PC tower.
Related link: Gadi Amit’s blog page, The New Deal