TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 1987

OBJECT

Design

AN UNDERLYING ISSUE IN DESIGN—previously only present as a kind of ghost haunting it—has come up to the surface: who is more powerful, the designer (or artist, or inventor), the merchant, or the buyer? In fact we see this drama not only in design, but on a number of fronts: it seems shocking even to bring up the question in the context of the arts, where the hierarchy has always been so idealized, but in the age of the blockbuster and of the consumer it is a question better not avoided. In the mundane world we read of merchandisers and shoppers acting out a constant tug-of-war, the merchandiser trying to manipulate or persuade the shopper into buying but also aware of his or her vulnerability to public taste—some things just won’t sell, no matter how well advertised. There are several ways to approach analogous but not duplicate tensions in the world of design. One is to complain that the

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