Design with a capital “D”- in trouble?

Two editorial/essays in this months Domus  both question the much hyped  dominance of design and design thinking in the contemporary world. In the first one, Design warsJustin McGuirk  looks at the commercial sphere, where  Samsung’s lead in sales of phones and tablets on Apple brings the relative conceptions of what design is into focus and examines wether Samsung is in fact more robust in its methods of broad based innovation, introducing many models and winnowing out the winners, trashing the losers and quickly adapting to users responses than Apple  with its development of a single ‘one-size-fits -all’ strategy . In the rapidly evolving world of cell phone technology, this is probably a more viable and humble  strategy than betting the house on a single design as Apple have done, with some monumental failures in its past. Since no one has divine insight into the future, it is infinitely more “Antifragile” as Nicholas Taleb  points out in his latest book of the same name, to entertain  many options and by a process of “tinkering” engage with the actor – worlds that constitute reality and are where the seeds of the future are germinating.

An aspect of the production process at Samsung

Is Samsung really the ersatz Apple that it is sometimes portrayed as, or does it simply have a different idea of what design is?

The answer, rather obviously, is that Apple became what was until recently the world’s largest company by selling “design”. The sheer force of aesthetic desirability combined with an effortless user experience was contagious enough to make businesses the world over, even those not selling products, aware of design’s transformative potential. Samsung, on the other hand, is most often discussed in terms of its technology and its market penetration but rarely its design. So if Apple is superseded by a company that is not particularly feted for its design, then, after all this hype, perhaps design is not quite as important as we thought. But then, is Samsung really the ersatz Apple that it is sometimes portrayed as, or does it simply have a different idea of what design is? Does it have a design ethos?