In January 2005 I was asked to make a short introductory talk in KHiO along with the other new deans that had been appointed. Here it is.

“Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than seeing.”


Seeing the object – almost without thinking.

Although Design is grown out of the marriage between arts and crafts with industry, it has developed into a speciality which carries objectification to its greatest extent. Designers celebrate objects nowadays without much consideration for tradition, locality, history.

Any kind of objects.

- A vacuum cleaner becomes a turtle, an insect, an animal, to please the eye.
- One more building is a copy of the square concrete, glass, timber-clad buildings. The same in Oslo, Switzerland, Singapore.
- A scantily clad girl is an object for selling a drink, a toy, a trip to Indonesia, a restaurant, a car.
- A politician becomes an object during election. Marketed, Designed (without wrinkles) without much meaning.

Design does this job in present society, – very often without content. Without much meaning.
It creates and sells dreams. Utopias. The best coffee, the coolest cars, the most advanced computer.

Utopias and dreams.

Thomas Moore, in his book on Utopia, says that man aims for a better valued life and does not wait for God to make it happen. Man adds value to his life, and Design is the servant. During this process Design serves the Design industries. It serves businesses that basically are only interested in profit.

How do we deal with this?

Does Capitalism have any morals? No! – according to Darwin. The survival of the fittest does not have any morals.

Designers are the interface between businesses and society. They must look after the human element in what business does in capitalistic society.

Design is humanism.

Design students are taught very powerful tools to operate with. These are weapons for survival in capitalistic conditions. If we want to support humanism and influence meaningless objectification of present life we must educate those that are in the front line of dream production – the Designers.

Educated Designers, artists, creators, should not be allowed to NOT THINK while they work. We must make sure they THINK, even tough it is not as much fun as seeing – according to Goethe.

How can we do this?

We must OPEN their field of focus. During the past 20-30 years there has been far too much specialization in Design. Actually in any profession. Specification means that we become narrow minded experts at something that only we know how to do. Ignorant of the wider picture.

We must make our students aware of tradition while not making it overwhelm them with bad habits. We must make them aware of old techniques without forcing them to use them. Norway has a great tradition in creating meaningful objects that are inherent in the geographical conditions and historical development. That is to be celebrated in the way a child approaches the world: every day a revelation without limits.

We must open the Design-specialized fields to the arts, drama, dance, politics, industry, commerce, music, film. To open up the work space so that our Design students keep an open mind.

The only way to survive in the current object-capitalistic-conditions is by supporting humanism. To think and operate cross-boundaries supported by an ethical vision.

Capitalism thrives on specialization. On the job specification. The conveyor belt job. How can you think while you got a job on the conveyor belt?

The creative Designer thrives on the possibility of the unexpected rather than the inevitable. The conveyor belt only goes in one direction with a very specific goal ahead.

We must relax the identification of the role while promoting professional and academic competences. A department of Design is an academic reflexive zone. The Designers must learn about standards and norms (the inevitable) while not becoming their slaves.
Designers create answers without having problems.

Let us make objects, but with thought, with responsibility. Design should look after the ethical dimension in society. We must look after differences:

- ethnic variation
- different age groups
- different factions of society
- the third world
- nature
- minority groups
- fight too much standardization
- cultural inequality

In KHiO we can make an operative model of an open society by taking down barriers of specialization. Then we create open minded THINKING artists and Designers that are not tools for businesses only.