Design Glut: Is There Too Much Design?

A young Brooklyn design firm calls for an end to the excess.

Is there altogether too much design out there? That's the assertion of Liz Kinmark and Kegan Fisher, a pair of young designers based in Bushwick, Brooklyn, who call themselves Design Glut.

The pair met two years ago at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair where, as Pratt students, they sold their own works from a retail section reserved for young designers. They came away from four days at the fair with a sickened sense of excess. "It felt like gluttony," Kinmark told me recently. "There were so many objects out there, and so little of it had a reason to exist. Design Glut was a term coined as a reflection of that moment in time."

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Much of what they saw struck them as a needless reiteration of existing trends, like the seemingly endless versions of laser-cut furniture with baroque intricacy. "Of course there are good laser-cut pieces out there but it's just so overused," Fisher said. "So much stuff is made simply to put another product on the market."

Design Glut's premise is pitch perfect for this moment: All the shiny, fun design objects produced in the age of Irrational Exuberance now look superfluous as design shifts away from the consumer culture of the last few decades. Design's preoccupation with high-end furnishings seems particularly excessive in this interlude between the Milan Furniture Fair, which ended yesterday, and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, known ICFF, which opens in New York on May 16.

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It may seem contradictory for Ms. Kinmark and Ms. Fisher to add their own designs to the abundance. They justify it by producing home furnishings and accessories that mock consumerism and respond to current economic issues with sardonic humor, as in the Dow Hanky (above) they released earlier this year with the downward zag of the Dow Jones industrial average over the last five years. "Fashion and design are about money and valuation, but nobody thinks about that," Kinmark said.

crudeblack Another example: Design Glut designed an oil barrel pendant engraved with the price of oil on the day it was made. (A limited-edition version commemorates Jan. 2, 2008, the day oil reached $100 a barrel.)

"We see products as a way to convey messages," Kinmark said. "People have such a particular relationship with products, so you can convey messages that you can't in other mediums"

Design Glut will be showing their work at the Javits Center during ICFF, and at InDisposed, an exhibition of disposable products at Studio X.

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