Friday, September 2, 2011

Fifty That Changed the World -- A Tiny Bit

A pet project of London design icon Terence Conran is the Design Museum (Wikipedia entry here and web site here).

It's not far off the tourist track, being located across the Thames and a short ways downstream from the Tower of London (walk across the Tower Bridge and hang a left (sort of -- you have to zig and zag a little to get back to the riverside).

I bring this up as incidental background to the series of books the museum produced over the last few years. The graphic at the top of this post shows covers of four of them. Their titles can be generalized as "Fifty Xxxxs That Changed the World" where the "Xxxxs" is Dresses, Bags, Chairs, Hats, Shoes and Cars.

The books are small in format and short in pages. There is a skimpy introduction and the fifty selections are presented in spreads -- text on the left-hand page and an illustration on the right.

But what seriously bothers me is the Changed the World business.

I see this phrase far more often than it merits. A case can be made that anything changes the world in some degree by its presence, absence or actions. But that trivializes the concept to the point of uselessness. At the other extreme might be strike by an asteroid or large meteor. Most of us would agree that the Great War and World War 2 changed the world, as did the domestication of the horse and fire, the invention of the wheel and the airplane, and other events that affected the lives of millions.

But handbags? dresses? hats? C'mon; don't be silly. A more accurate title might be "Fifty Xxxxs That Are Pretty Interesting."

As an aside, there are those admonitions that are usually directed towards naive youth. Major in this or that subject in university, get a job in such-and-such field and you, too, can Change the World! If I ever get the power to Change the World, one of the first things I'll do is abolish that phrase.

1 comment:

Hels said...

I agree. Out of books on dresses, bags, chairs, hats, shoes and cars, the only one I would read is about chairs. Not because chairs changed the world - they did not. But because design practices in the applied art world were always interesting.