Philippe Starck: A genius and a toothbrush

“Elitism is the essence of vulgarity,” proclaimed Philippe Starck, as he watched the clock ticking down his time on stage at C2-MTL. “We can have more when we have less,” said Starck, worried that he wasn’t clicking through his slide presentation quickly enough. Starck was very conscious of the time, which comes as no surprise. Starck is inordinately conscious of pretty much everything around him. This is, after all, how he turned an ordinary toothbrush into a thing of beauty, and a toilet into a throne of note. By knowing when to cut away, and when to finesse. By seeing something of worth where everyone else saw only (f)utility.
So much to do, so little time
One lifetime does not seem like enough for this man with a plan to democratize design. From chairs to toys to lamps, Starck is constantly thinking of ways to improve on the standard and engage with his user. But—and this is important—to do it with minimal cost to the environment (“We must save everything – materials, energy, EVERYTHING!”) Starck believes in convergence, in the big “we”, that we are all responsible for re-thinking how we see the world and using our creativity to better it. We must build and stick to our own code of ethics, and continue to rigorously hold ourselves up to the highest possible standard. In the very near future, a dividing line will be drawn; the world will be separated into those who use their knowledge and creative spark to sell to target consumers, and those who will use their power to help their fellow man.

A word to the wise? Don’t be on the side of the former.
Good design MUST…
Good design must right a past wrong (like a single, flat, rewww.c2montreal.comsable water bottle you can slip into your pocket and offer up in lieu of plastic) or rebel against the pervading design norm (gnome side table, anyone?) Good design must remind people of their culpability in the world order (a lamp made out of a golden Kalashnikov), and leave society better off than before. Aestheticism is the antithesis of design. Do not favour beauty over function. Merge the two as best you can, and do it in a way that is reasonable AND responsible.
Good design cannot…
…save lives, unfortunately. “After 40 years of work, I feel a little impotent,” says Starck, “because my tool is not a weapon. We need weapons.”
Good design will…
Access the collective memory. Like Starck’s clear Louis Ghost chair. Or, for the more Occidental of us out there, his Ming chair. Starck synthesizes what we mean when we say “chair”, and reduces its purest essence. The power in a clear, ghost chair with minimal lines is that “you choose to see the chair.” Its subtle lines and almost invisible contours speak to a knowledge buried deep inside you, inside all of us.
Technology and heritage collide
It is true that Starck believes that in 15-odd years, we will all be bionic beings with watches and other technological wonders set inside of us. However, it is also true that Starck believes in conserving and rescuing old design from obsolescence. With a little Starck magic thrown in to gussy things up, of course (Baccarat crystal chandeliers for all!!)
Plastic is not fantastic
Starck does not want to contribute to the world’s plastic problem any longer. He does not want to make waves in an already turbulent sea, or use more energy than is absolutely necessary. Starck is putting his drafting pencil where his mouth is, and designing chairs, mega-yachts and houses that all reflect his stances. Starck encouraged the C2 audience to do the same; think before you create, and add only goodness to the world around you. After all, beauty is ephemeral, but most petroleum-based plastics are forever.