Monday, 15 October 2007

Against Indifference, De Luxe Glory and the Cult of the Arty-Crafty: The New Zealand Design Review Online Archive

In a 1950 editorial the "New Zealand Design Review" identified the "horrible forces ranged against good design" as Indifference, Cheapness First, Unnecessary Novelty, Mass Production, De Luxe Glory, and the cult of the Arty-Crafty. The bimonthly "New Zealand Design Review" was published by the Architecture Centre from 1948 to 1954. A complete online archive of the journal has just been launched by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre and the Wellington Architecture Centre. All 29 issues are now freely available online where users can search and read the full text of articles as well as browse the many photographs and design illustrations.

The "New Zealand Design Review" addressed design topics as broad as furniture, town planning, theatre and stage design, packaging, church design, book-binding, poster design, industrial design and of course architecture. It was the first journal of its kind in New Zealand, reflecting an interest in architecture, design and the arts in the broadest sense.

The editorial of April/May 1949 explicitly asked the question "What is Design?", answering this with a statement about the purpose of the Design Review:
"Like everything that has to do with the arts, design cannot be tested for its quality in a laboratory … The elusive quality that a consensus of opinion agrees to call good design is not to be defined in terms like an axiom in geometry … So we will leave the making of formulas and rules to those who like that sort of thing ... we shall publish in each number a discussion on some particular object; a house, a chair, a teapot or what have you. The contributor will tell you his or her opinion about the merits or demerits of the way that thing is designed, omitting any waving of the big stick to lay down laws of design. It is for you to decide if you think they are right."

The project to make this content available in a digital format has been a collaboration between the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (www.nzetc.org), the Wellington Architecture Centre (http://architecture.org.nz/) and the Architecture and Design Library, Victoria University of Wellington (http://www.vuw.ac.nz/design). We are also grateful to the Alexander Turnbull Library who allowed the digitisation of two issues of the Review which we would not have otherwise been able to include in the online collection.

The "New Zealand Design Review" archive is online

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