The shape of things to come
(CNN) -- CNN talks to Australian designer Marc Newson about shaping the world around us.
CNN: Your work is often described as futuristic. Is there something about the future that attracts you as a designer?
Marc Newson: Design has to be futuristic in a very literal sense. One shouldn't get confused by the idea of futuristic that people often associate with something that's retro, that 60s idea of futuristic.
What I do has to be futuristic because I want what I design to have a life of its own in the future and exist without me in its own right.
CNN: As a designer, do you feel a sense of responsibility for how the future will look?
MN: Ultimately it's probably more of an egotistical concern. I want my stuff to be timeless. That's what a lot of designers strive for. I think about the future all the time in terms of how what I do will exist in the future. I try to visualize the world in 10 years and imagine how this thing I am designing now will be perceived.
CNN: Does design progress? Is the future going to be better designed than the past?
MN: I don't think so. It's such a subjective thing. It's like saying, 'Will art be any better in 50 years time?' and I guess for some people it might be.
Although design isn't nearly as esoteric as art it is ultimately very subjective. People often forget that everything was designed by someone, even if they weren't thinking in terms of design.
CNN: Do you think we are seeing a greater emphasis on design, rather than pure functionality, than has been the case in the past?
MN: The thing that may become more prevalent is people's awareness of design as a means of enhancing the value of a product. The iPod wasn't the first thing to do that but it's a good example. The technology is fairly ubiquitous but what's different about it is the design. That is the point of difference.
CNN: Does technology influence you as a designer?
MN: One thing for sure is that we're living in the middle of a technological revolution. In many ways it must feel like it was to be living in the industrial revolution. It's an amazing time to be around.
I've been involved with designing many things that incorporate a high level of technology, from mobile phones to aircraft interiors. I've been doing a lot of work on the interiors of the new Airbus A380 and the level of technology in those things is astounding. We're so surrounded by technology at the moment and it is moving forward so quickly that it is difficult to step back and understand it.
CNN: Is there a sense that design from the 60s and the 70s has dated?
MN: There are distinct trends in design, fashion, art, in everything. Ultimately that's left to future generations to judge but I do think about it constantly and if I were to adopt a position it would be to try and stay away from the mainstream.
Good designers will set the trends, so by the time they become mainstream they'll have moved on. They're five years ahead. It's not so much that good designers are predicting the future. It's just the lag for what they've done to filter through.
CNN: You've said in the past that you'd like to get involved with space design. Do you think we'll see a Marc Newson spacecraft in the future?
MN: I'd like to hope so. Unfortunately space isn't really a place for design yet. It's very much about nuts and bolts and making things work. Ironically in the 70s [industrial designer] Raymond Loewy did a lot of concepts for Skylab, which was one of the first space stations. That really hasn't happened since.
I did a project for Nike and my reason for doing it was to design a shoe for cosmonauts in space. I did actually design this shoe but it became more of a fashion statement unfortunately. It's the one thing that I'd really love to do and I think possibilities will emerge.
-- Designer Marc Newson is one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2005. His work includes the Lockheed Lounge chair, the Ford 021C concept car and the Nike Zvezdochka cosmonaut shoe.
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