Curro Claret is both an industrial designer and activist. For him, it is essential to stay away from mercantilist interests and to create involving the user. This is written in his artworks, two of which have been recently incorporated in the exhibition “From the World to the Museum. Product design, cultural heritage”: the Malla fruit bowl, that requires reusing a wasted material for accomplishing its purpose; and the ¡Por el amor de Dios! pew bed, a gesture to a social group in vulnerable position. We talk with him about the interaction between design, society and consumption; the conflict between ethics and aesthetic and the emergence of sustainable design.
You demystify the figure of the elitist designer. Is it a sought attitude?
There is a will to believe that design eventually has to be for and get to everybody. I have always been attracted to the daily object and to understand design in its most essential and accessible level. We have inherited a design associated with a specific social layer, when historically it is independent of classes, environments and elites. I am interested in breaking with the stigma of glamour in design.
In Óscar Guayabero’s “Imperfect portrait of Curro Claret”, you affirm that distances among social classes are increasingly tight. Why is design now smashing the walls that once erected?
History books have made us believe the story in a certain way, but there have always been elements shared by all the classes, even more now that distances among us are shorter. The clip, the safety pin, the kitchen rag… we often do not think of them from a design perspective, but they are common for all of us. Classless instruments are the ones that awaken my interest the most.
You refuse to accept that “design belongs to rich and sophisticated people”. What makes designing from the margins necessary?
For me, designing from the margins is an opportunity. Just because it is not a commission from a company or an organization does not mean that designer cannot perform. There are more reasons to design. Neither would I like that this only happened through volunteering.
Should the designer have any filter?
Sometimes it has been said that designer would need a deontological code that could help him to filter out. The dilemma is finishes in each particular case. Would you openly design a militar tank or a weapon? Most will say no, but someone will find a reason to do it in the end.
We come from modernism, that claimed the ability of design to raise awareness. Now the postmodernist era thinks of it as a sales argument. Which is the following stair?
We are going towards both directions. It seemed that we could not go so far away, but there are things that are going beyond the limits of the mercantilist and speculative system we are living in. At the same time, though, we are witnessing more committed people proving that things can be done in a different way. We could either congratulate ourselves and stay hopeful, or find reasons to jump out of the window facing the disaster we are provoking.
What is threatening consumption society?
There is a power concentrated in few that rule with an ambition that surpasses the rest of mortals. Our choices happen to have nothing to against this mechanism, we are immersed in inertia it is very hard to stay away from. The danger is the stablishment, people that do not face this commitment.
Does responsible design make sense then?
It is important to understand that our work does not take part in a process that would necessarily lead us to a solution, but a discussion one. I think talking and suggesting make sense, with the uncertainty that it is a test.
Is our cultural consumption a threat for the most immediate future?
We should see in which etymological sense the term ‘consumption’ is used, whether it means a market exchange or a sensitivity for certain aspects. We make use and get rid of things in a very frivolous way, and this is not balanced, even with the ‘cultural’ tag.
Could a designer distance himself?
Designers are taking part in the mechanism of hyperconsumption. It is natural that this generate us many questions and that we do not try to avoid them so easily. We are lacking awareness of what living implies.
Are ethics and aesthetic opposite poles?
We come from an inertia of design of doing cute and attractive things, and this is a very simplified interpretation. Designing pretty is not enough, balance needs to be found.
Today we have a stronger fondness for what is imperfect, ugly.
It is a way to do that intentionally seeks another aesthetic, and wants to express a disagreement, be irreverent, disrespectful and irritating. We are looking for a beauty disassociated from comfortable life.
Do the materials you use respond to this concern?
Yes, to the will to cause discomfort in a certain way and to not accept a beauty that makes us not questioning things enough.
Is sustainable design a trend?
There is an evident risk of pose in design, and an unavoidable tensions to be green. There is probably people lacking awareness that believe they are doing things right.
Should the responsibility between designer and consumer be shared?
Every user plays their part, of course. All of us have the chance to make a decision in our personal and professional spaces. There is a kind of design –for instance, the fruit bowl Malla, a half-done object– that aims to encourage in this sense. Sometimes it is a matter of facilitating this re-use.
You place the user in the middle of your creations.
Design is a wild card that allows us to explore and investigate. Design in itself is nothing more than a space where you can drive it wherever you want to. The human history is associated with self-made design, and we are now focused on the consumption of finished goods. Social design is a way to bring questions to the consumers and give them their own space, and to stimulate their manual and creative skills too. Part of the challenge is to make it accessible, with low knowledge and a very small effort.
Does empty design exist?
Fortunately. I believe all the extreme sides are necessary. We can also learn from sumptuous design.
If you want to know more about not only Curro Claret artworks but other local product designers’, we recommend you to come over the Design Museum of Barcelona and visit the current exhibition “From the World to the Museum”. Each of the pieces on display is considered a representative sample of the design of its time, of the different material and technical contributions proposed by their designers, as well as of their sociocultural resonance.