Philippe Starck: Design and destiny

Philippe Starck: Design and destiny

You will understand nothing with my type of English. It’s good for you because you can have a break after all these fantastic people. I must tell you I am like that, not very comfortable, because usually, in life, I think my job is absolutely useless. I mean, I feel useless. Now after Carolyn, and all the other guys, I feel like shit. And definitively, I don’t know why I am here, but — you know the nightmare you can have, like you are an impostor, you arrive at the opera, and they push you, “You must sing!” I don’t know. (Laughter) So, so, because I have nothing to show, nothing to say, we shall try to speak about something else. We can start, if you want, by understanding — it’s just to start, it’s not interesting, but — how I work. When somebody comes to me and ask for what I am known, I mean, yes, lemon squeezer, toilet brush, toothpick, beautiful toilet seats, and why not — a toothbrush? I don’t try to design the toothbrush. I don’t try to say, “Oh, that will be a beautiful object,” or something like that. That doesn’t interest me. Because there is different types of design. The one, we can call it the cynical design, that means the design invented by Raymond Loewy in the ’50s, who said, what is ugly is a bad sale, la laideur se vend mal, which is terrible. It means the design must be just the weapon for marketing, for producer to make product more sexy, like that, they sell more: it’s shit, it’s obsolete, it’s ridiculous. I call that the cynical design. After, there is the narcissistic design: it’s a fantastic designer who designs only for other fantastic designers. (Laughter) After, there is people like me, who try to deserve to exist, and who are so ashamed to make this useless job, who try to do it in another way, and they try, I try, to not make the object for the object but for the result, for the profit for the human being, the person who will use it. If we take the toothbrush — I don’t think about the toothbrush. I think, “What will be the effect of the brush in the mouth?” And to understand what will be the effect of the toothbrush in the mouth, I must imagine: Who owns this mouth? What is the life of the owner of this mouth? In what society [does] this guy live? What civilization creates this society? What animal species creates this civilization? When I arrive — and I take one minute, I am not so intelligent — when I arrive at the level of animal species, that becomes real interesting. Me, I have strictly no power to change anything. But when I come back, I can understand why I shall not do it, because today to not do it, it’s more positive than do it, or how I shall do it. But to come back, where I am at the animal species, there is things to see. There is things to see, there is the big challenge. The big challenge in front of us. Because there is not a human production which exists outside of what I call “the big image.” The big image is our story, our poetry, our romanticism. Our poetry is our mutation, our life. We must remember, and we can see that in any book of my son of 10 years old, that life appears four billion years ago, around — four billion point two? Voice offstage: Four point five. Yes, point five, OK, OK, OK! (Laughter) I’m a designer, that’s all, of Christmas gifts. And before, there was this soup, called “soupe primordiale,” this first soup — bloop bloop bloop — sort of dirty mud, no life, nothing. So then — pshoo-shoo — lightning — pshoo — arrive — pshoo-shoo — makes life — bloop bloop — and that dies. Some million years after — pshoo-shoo, bloop-bloop — ah, wake up! At the end, finally, that succeeds, and life appears. We was so, so stupid. The most stupid bacteria. Even, I think, we copy our way to reproduce, you know what I mean, and something of — oh no, forget it. After, we become a fish; after, we become a frog; after, we become a monkey; after, we become what we are today: a super-monkey, and the fun is, the super-monkey we are today, is at half of the story. Can you imagine? From that stupid bacteria to us, with a microphone, with a computer, with an iPod: four billion years. And we know, and especially Carolyn knows, that when the sun will implode, the earth will burn, explode, I don’t know what, and this is scheduled for four, four billion years? Yes, she said, something like that. OK, that means we are at half of the story. Fantastic! It’s a beauty! Can you imagine? It’s very symbolic. Because the bacteria we was had no idea of what we are today. And today, we have no idea of what we shall be in four billion years. And this territory is fantastic. That is our poetry. That is our beautiful story. It’s our romanticism. Mu-ta-tion. We are mutants. And if we don’t deeply understand, if we don’t integrate that we are mutants, we completely miss the story. Because every generation thinks we are the final one. We have a way to look at Earth like that, you know, “I am the man. The final man. You know, we mutate during four billion years before, but now, because it’s me, we stop. Fin. (Laughter) For the end, for the eternity, it is one with a red jacket.” Something like that. I am not sure of that. (Laughter) Because that is our intelligence of mutation and things like that. There is so many things to do; it’s so fresh. And here is something: nobody is obliged to be a genius, but everybody is obliged to participate. And to participate, for a mutant, there is a minimum of exercise, a minimum of sport. We can say that. The first, if you want — there is so many — but one which is very easy to do, is the duty of vision. I can explain you. I shall try. If you walk like that, it’s OK, it’s OK, you can walk, but perhaps, because you walk with the eyes like that, you will not see, oh, there is a hole. And you will fall, and you will die. Dangerous. That’s why, perhaps, you will try to have this angle of vision. OK, I can see, if I found something, up, up, and they continue, up up up. I raise the angle of vision, but it’s still very — selfish, selfish, egoiste — yes, selfish. You, you survive. It’s OK. If you raise the level of your eyes a little more you go, “I see you, oh my God you are here, how are you, I can help you, I can design for you a new toothbrush, new toilet brush,” something like that. I live in society; I live in community. It’s OK. You start to be in the territory of intelligence, we can say. From this level, the more you can raise this angle of view, the more you will be important for the society. The more you will rise, the more you will be important for the civilization. The more you will rise, to see far and high, like that, the more you will be important for the story of our mutation. That means intelligent people are in this angle. That is intelligence. From this to here, that, it’s genius. Ptolemy, Eratosthenes, Einstein, things like that. Nobody’s obliged to be a genius. It’s better, but nobody. Take care, in this training, to be a good mutant. There is some danger, there is some trap. One trap: the vertical. Because at the vertical of us, if you look like that, “Ah! my God, there is God. Ah! God!” God is a trap. God is the answer when we don’t know the answer. That means, when your brain is not enough big, when you don’t understand, you go, “Ah, it’s God, it’s God.” That’s ridiculous. That’s why — jump, like that? No, don’t jump. Come back. Because, after, there is another trap. If you look like that, you look to the past, or you look inside if you are very flexible, inside yourself. It’s called schizophrenia, and you are dead also. That’s why every morning, now, because you are a good mutant, you will raise your angle of view. Out, more of the horizontal. You are an intelligence. Never forget — like that, like that. It’s very, very, very important. What, what else we can say about that? Why do that? It’s because we — if we look from far, we see our line of evolution. This line of evolution is clearly positive. From far, this line looks very smooth, like that. But if you take a lens, like that, this line is ack, ack, ack, ack, ack. Like that. It’s made of light and shadow. We can say light is civilization, shadow is barbaria. And it’s very important to know where we are. Because some cycle, there is a spot in the cycle, and you have not the same duty in the different parts of the cycle. That means, we can imagine — I don’t say it was fantastic, but in the ’80s, there was not too much war, like that, it was — we can imagine that the civilization can become civilized. In this case, people like me are acceptable. We can say, “It’s luxurious time.” We have time to think, we have time to I don’t know what, speak about art and things like that. It’s OK. We are in the light. But sometimes, like today, we fall, we fall so fast, so fast to shadow, we fall so fast to barbaria. With many, many, many, many face of barbaria. Because it’s not, the barbaria we have today, it’s perhaps not the barbaria we think. There is different type of barbaria. That’s why we must adapt. That means, when barbaria is back, forget the beautiful chairs, forget the beautiful hotel, forget design, even — I’m sorry to say — forget art. Forget all that. There is priority; there is urgency. You must go back to politics, you must go back to radicalization, I’m sorry if that’s not very English. You must go back to fight, to battle. That’s why today I’m so ashamed to make this job. That’s why I am here, to try to do it the best possible. But I know that even I do it the best possible — that’s why I’m the best — it’s nothing. Because it’s not the right time. That’s why I say that. I say that, because, I repeat, nothing exist if it’s not in the good rhythym, the rhythym of our beautiful dream, of this civilization. And because we must all work to finish this story. Because the scenario of this civilization — about love, progress, and things like that — it’s OK, but there is so many different, other scenarios of other civilizations. This scenario, of this civilization, was about becoming powerful, intelligent, like this idea we have invented, this concept of God. We are God now. We are. It’s almost done. We have just to finish the story. That is very, very important. And when you don’t understand really what’s happened, you cannot go and fight and work and build and things like that. You go to the future back, back, back, back, like that. And you can fall, and it’s very dangerous. No, you must really understand that. Because we have almost finished, I’ll repeat this story. And the beauty of this, in perhaps 50 years, 60 years, we can finish completely this civilization, and offer to our children the possibility to invent a new story, a new poetry, a new romanticism. With billions of people who have been born, worked, lived and died before us, these people who have worked so much, we have now bring beautiful things, beautiful gifts, we know so many things. We can say to our children, OK, done, that was our story. That passed. Now you have a duty: invent a new story. Invent a new poetry. The only rule is, we have not to have any idea about the next story. We give you white pages. Invent. We give you the best tools, the best tools, and now, do it. That’s why I continue to work, even if it’s for toilet brush.

100 thoughts on “Philippe Starck: Design and destiny

  1. When I said design will be dead soon, I was talking about the minimalists lines of an ipod for exemple! I can draw just a cube with 3 buttons and sell it as an mp4 device.
    Starck said himself, design is useless, yeah he really said that, he also said that he will stop design in two years, publicity stunt? I don't think so

  2. Are you trying to say there is no design in the iPod? Minimalism isn't the absence of design, it's the absence of embellishment. Embellishment DOES NOT EQUAL design.

  3. nah that's not what I was trying to say
    its form is so minimalist you can't do it more simple…
    check the video "Microsoft sustainability" that's all I got to say about this…

  4. But the fact that it is so simple is purely BECAUSE apple have invested so much money into it's design. Look at the original iPod, then compare it with the current model. Jonathan Ive and his team have been working hard DESIGNING to make the interface as clean and simple as possible. The fact that the design is invisible is testament to the amount of design work that has gone into this product.

  5. Microsoft don't know anything about uncluttered interfaces that they haven't learned from Apple's success, that's why they can't sell the Zune.
    Nevertheless, if you can't see the amount of design that has gone into the products in the video you mentioned, then you are a lost cause.

  6. I only see beautiful interfaces, and a lot of thick surfaces
    and yes I know it's a project but microsoft or not, that's what I see when I'm talking about the future of design, these thick tactile surfaces with well designed interfaces are already here

  7. the bigger comes thicker and thicker!
    I mean how will an ipod nano look in 10 years keeping the same options?
    it will come thicker, maybe his size will be divide by 3, …
    it's still design but I really think that one day technology will permit us to have that's what I was tryign to point
    I know there will always be designers, we need them I was exagerating a lil bit, i'm not crazy

  8. Achtung Bangkok Calling!

    Does Starck need captions/ subtitles?

    Even the Mumbai Indians and S'poreans
    have captions when interviewed on BBC.
    Yes captions. 'Cause their beuatiful accdents are so hard to understand.

    Dr John (Francophone)
    CarSanook ( dot com)

  9. BULLSHIT. everyone has a blank piece of canvass, the story is finished at any point. Stark is grasping for an excuse to continue because he fears the blank canvass.

  10. Haha, this guy is such a cool dude.

    Starck, like many other speakers on TED, i would like to meet, not to discuss with. Just to listen.

  11. @Dumass88 I mean that no of us has an obligation to 'finish this story' as Starck puts it. He wants to finish the story because he is scared of the blank first page of a new story. He is old, and that is what happens when you think like an old person. "Our story" can end now, this second, if we want. Each of us is responsible for the timing; the story can only end on an individual level.

  12. @mnewlyn I think he refers to our species and all our problems ahead. I think he means that mankind have to unite to reasch our next evolutionary step and avoid killing our own species for short term gain.

  13. some good points (which are partially mentioned in the comments) and some bad points as well…
    I didn't get what he means by " we are the god" … if he literally means what he said I disagree cuz as he said we are limited. the ideology of God is that God isn't limited. It's possible to change the definitions like to say God is the powerful one. but it just cuz confusion and sometimes insults some people.

  14. I am French myself and I think he represent the french accent…His accent is terrible…you can understand clearly ?


  16. nay, it's not the case. He just sucks real bad at english, saw an interview once. He never made any real effort, so he speaks a shitty english.

  17. you have re said what he stated. What he was talking about was evolution. That evolution is in our hands, we must give the tools to the people around us and let them innovate and invent new ideas, design and etc. The future is in our hands and we must never think that we are the only ones out there, but to instead create a story that will hopefulyl continue this evolution of society for the next 4 billion years.

  18. If you google "Ted philippe starck thinks deep on design", you'll go into the "original video" where you can set any language on the subtitles i think. English subtitles are for sure, I just checked. Enjoy!

  19. Agreed.
    But don't blame him, blame the school system.
    Until recently, english wasn't a priority there. National pride, anglophobia, call it what you want.


  21. I follow TED in multiple languages so i dont mind the langage and i am quite open minded to new ideas, in addition i am a designer,
    Yet, this is the worst TED lecture i have seen so far, no point no clue, the guy is funny but misinformed of many facts of life.

  22. Hello. I am starting with my diploma project in my college. Could you help me make an outstanding diploma project?

  23. Beware of the trap…love the analogy of the "angle of vision"…a good speaker is someone that expresses their idea in very practical and simply way and that's what Philippe.

  24. Un accent ? Quel accent ? Pour une fois qu'il y en a un qui parle un anglais que je comprends facilement !!!
    … and now, write your comments in french, just for fun ;))

  25. i'm Australian and I understood every bloody word he said, what is wrong with you people?
    has your little town never seen an outsider, while every single person is inbred with the same white dna for the last 50 generations?

  26. You can't even speak 'proper english' yourself!
    I think Starck actually beats you in the speaking english category…
    Have a nice day 😀

  27. he doesn't brush his teeth because he's a super monkey!? any you call this guy one of the world's leading thinkers? what a joke. but they would never have Kent hovind on Ted talks because he actually uses the brain God designed for him(everyone was designed by God)

  28. EVERY person that had a REAL-LIFE-CHANGING experience of God and faith, experienced inside himself and through the people around him, never looking up towards a big problem solver.

    If you never had this experience (yet) it's OK, you are fine…but do not pretend you know what you talk about.

  29. Great. Simple steps in history and simple steps to the future. Only great and humorours spirits see our complexity that clear. I am still a big fan. In German: Star(c)k!

  30. No one has the responsibility to speak English perfectly, no one thinks you should be the next Shakespeare. BUT what this IDIOT did was a "pure disrespect" for his audience who invested their TIME into it, to listen to this egoistic maniac. It's just a "17 minutes talk" and he didn't even care. He should have been well prepared for it. How hard could it be to memorize a few pages of English words? YOU EGOISTIC MANIAC!

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