Im Spielraum der Ironie. Wie Vilém Flusser über Design schrieb
Flusser’s writings on design are mainly characterized by an essayistic and ironic style. In my text, I highlight Flusser’s use of these two styles, since he considered that the conventional approaches of established discourses could not adequately address the existing realities, and their complexities. For Flusser, essays are phenomenological narrations concerned with arbitrary objects, in which the distinction between common and high culture becomes blurred. That explains why his writings on design and ethics, or on design and war, are described as being difficult to access, and are even provocative. But it is not only the content of Flusser’s essays that provokes. His ironic and parodist style of writing is used to make a caricature of the complacency of the design debates of his time, and to point to the evasive question of responsibility in design. He noted that ethical issues were never raised in relation to the designed objects, and thus he portrayed the design of common or mundane objects as being irresponsible, given that designers focused their attention solely on the object, rather than on the people who use it, or on the cultural contexts in which they were used. Accordingly, Flusser identified design as a tool by which culture betrayed itself. To emphasize this point, he employed images and exaggerations in his essays, which he called “karikaturale Vereinfachungen.” Flusser uses an elaborate etymological juggling of words and caricatures, which is key to his writings on design. I argue that without his etymological caricatures and the irony in his writings, Flusser could not have expressed his philosophy of design with precision.