March 11, 2007
Philippe Starck Says Create Your Story
The renown French Philippe Starck, one of the top designers in the world walked onto the TED stage in Monterey this past week wearing jeans, sneakers and a sporty bright red nylon jacket half zipped. Most know him for the design of ‘everyday consumable things,’ i.e., the lemon squeezer, toothbrush, etc.
His products are often "stylized, streamlined and organic in their look and are also constructed using unusual combinations of materials, such as glass and stone, plastic and aluminum, plush fabric and chrome."
Starck starts by ‘nearly apologizing’ for his lack of intelligence in the midst of so many brilliant scientists, authors, philosophers and world thinkers. Satirically, he wonders how he made it onto the TED stage and stands before us "with no presentation to speak of." Of course many speakers don't use presentations and are most effective when they tell us a story, one which we'll remember far beyond their 18 minutes.
He then turns it around as he starts to think out loud, pacing back and forth across the stage with enthusastic energy and child-like gestures that come across as both authentic and conversational.
Thereafter, in real time, he fleshes out what he wants us all to know and remember about what he thinks about, the design process for ‘everyday’ people and finally, about the legacy that we should leave behind to our children and the generation behind us.
I had a hard time following his thought process – at first – and the fact that English was clearly a second language didn’t help. Amusing and authentic, he drew laughter from the audience, despite the fact that there were some of us who were unclear what points he was trying to make.
He spoke of three types of designers:
--The Cynical Designer
--The Narcissist Designer, one who designs things for other designers
“Then there’s a third type of designer like me,” he says. “I make things for the benefit of the user. In the case of a toothbrush, I ask myself, what kind of mouth am I designing this for?”
He moves us into the direction which ultimately brings us to his main 'take away.' On the human race, he talks about our oblivious nature as a species and the fact that every generation thinks they are the only ones.
”We think it stops with us," he says. "In 4.5 billion years, we won’t have a clue where we will be in another 4.5 billion years, just as we don’t have a clue where we'll be in 4.5 billion years from today."
Starck encourages us to create a ‘vision’ in our lifetime – raise your hunger for it and then make it happen. “It is the absolute minimum that we must do.” I love when people use the word MUST for when they do, they always emphasize the word with such hunger.
When something is a MUST for someone, it happens for there is no other choice for that outcome in the human mind. MUST means WILL, as evidence from those who have achieved their MUSTs in history, whether it is someone who has designed something everyone will remember, developed a medical or scientific breakthrough, or scored more goals than any other athlete in history.
“God is the answer when we don’t know the answer,” he claims. “We are God, so we don’t need to look for him. When we are in the light, we think and create beauty and design. It is our purpose. By doing this, we are working to create and complete civilization.”
What I think he means here is the civilization as we know it, the period of time in which we walk the earth, the era we are alive. This is the period we MUST create that legacy for the next generation. “Finish your story,” he adds, “the story you are here to create in our lifetime."
By creating this story, we are creating the most beautiful gift we can while we are here. Once we are finished with our story, we are able to give the best tools and a new clean white canvas to our children. They can then create their own poetry, their own romanticism, and ultimately their own story.
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