Throughout the ages, man has been exchanging all sorts of ideas, knowledge, and things, from seeds to recipes to techniques and so on. It didn’t used to be an issue of any sort, just a natural thing to do (well most of the time). But today it so often feels like people are keeping their ideas or techniques as a secret, mostly because people are so preoccupied with making commercial products to get rich and/or famous. Nowadays, people seem to be whispering into each others’ ears and hiding their tools and techniques. The other day, I made a really good lasagna, but I’m not going to tell you the secret ingredient, because then I won’t be the only one who can make this delicious lasagna. It’s “my precious,” like Gollum would say and, “We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious!”. But in reality, I’m no Gollum, and this just sounds all too silly and individualistic to me, so I’m just going to tell you the recipe:
In a pot, boil fresh lasagna plates. It’s more expensive, but tastes so much better. On a frying pan mix:
1-2 garlic cloves
Lot of fresh coriander
One onion, of any kind you like
Salt and pepper.
Secret ingredient: (kryddi›)
Cashew nuts or any other nuts like peanuts or
pecan, or all of them together,
and maybe little bit of sweet potato or other
Then arrange the lasagna plates, cream cheese and the cooked mix in a baking form and throw on some grated cheese. Lastly, put it in a oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, and add some parmesan on the side, alright!
This idea of free exchange has been the basis of maintaining biodiversity as well as food security over the past 10,000 years. This and more is laid out in the Manifesto on The Future of Seeds, produced by The International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, where Vandana Shiva is a joint initiative of. Vandana is an indian philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist, just to name few. In 2003, Time Magazine identified her as an environmental “hero” and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia. That same year, The International Commission on the Future of Food published and disseminated The Manifesto, wherein they stated that “diversity is our highest form of security… It increases the choice of options and the chances of adapting successfully to changing environmental conditions and human needs.” But what can a statement about food have to do with design and design in Iceland?
Well, for one, one might ask whether there is diversity in the design market of Iceland. When I think about it, thinking about Icelandic design companies across a wide spectrum, there is not a lot that I can think of, which is a little funny, having studied art in high school and now graphic design for two and a half years, and living all of my life in Iceland. What are the biggest design companies, for instance? I thought of 66°North, CCP, Össur, Marel, Advania — all very different companies with a lot of money on their hands, but as William Morris said in his book, Art Under Plutocracy (1883), “Do not be deceived by the outside appearance of order in our plutocratic society” — and I am not.
What are the biggest design companies in Iceland doing about increasing choices and options? What are they doing to educate people about their knowledge of techniques and products to the people that have interests in those ideas and fields? These companies need to be “open source,” and there needs to be more freedom to exchange and trade so that we can build a more diverse design market, and so that we can maintain and use the knowledge that we now possess. As stated earlier, design companies in ICeland may be different, but they are maybe not so diverse.
I am not saying that there isn’t anything happening, because surely there is, but we need to do more together and be more open about design here. We need more design companies and more design collaborations, for instance. If we consider Iceland as an open society, and also specifically a Democratic society, then those companies would and should do more to engage that. It’s not always about inventing things, it’s also about cumulative collective discovery, a common effort upon which future discoveries may be based on, and that can benefit designers in their creations.
Variety, multiformity, and diversity are words that we should be considering in regards to design. It is not necessarily about making lot of the same product in different colours and patterns. Rather, we should be trying to find the best solutions regarding health and safety, usability, and so on for everything and every idea together. Design should be more about connections with the whole network and creating a space for open innovation with users. We should be standing on the shoulders of giants and not letting big companies tell us what we nee. We should be making things that we really need together. If I can, I would like to quote myself: “Why invent something, if not for others to play with?”
With all that said, I am going to end this writing with a quote from the famous English textile designer, artist, writer, and libertarian socialist, who was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement, as this is an attempt to evoke how we think about design in Iceland. He said, “One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman: two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and the cause has victories tangible and real; and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question.”-William Morris