The Psychopathology of American Life
Sunday, August 21st, 2022

David Stairs Sigmund Freud in the parallel universe that is America (Photo credit: Library of Congress/Corbis Historical Collection) Amid all the loose talk about lost American greatness, there seem to be many people worrying about just what has gone so terribly wrong, as if last year’s withdrawal from the quagmire of Afghanistan was evidence of […]

Pod People
Sunday, December 15th, 2019

David Stairs Who doesn’t love a podcast? Some weird personality or obscure ideology you need to catch up on on that long commute to work in the morning? Needing to block out ambient noise in your open space office cubicle? What better way for a busy person to stay both informed and amused?

Driving Miss Vanity
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

David Stairs I haven’t yet been able to locate a source that estimates the overall number of vehicles that have been manufactured in the last century. In 1950 there were 50,000,000 cars in the world, not necessarily including all of the 16,500,000 Model Ts Ford produced between 1908 and 1927. In 2010 the number of […]

Dubious Distinction
Friday, January 17th, 2014

Vassiliki Giannopoulos National Design Awards Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum 2 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128 Dear Ms. Giannopoulos, Regarding your December 23rd email notifying us that Designers Without Borders has been nominated for the 2014 National Design Awards, we have this response.

On Guzzling
Friday, November 15th, 2013

David Stairs Ask my Indian friend: Americans are in a coma. What would evoke such an evaluation? Last year, while I was living in Bangalore, an American friend visited and my son and I met her for lunch. While crossing a busy boulevard she grabbed my arm and said, “I’ll trust you to get me […]

Blind Since Birth
Saturday, October 1st, 2011

David Stairs In Society of the Spectacle Guy Debord attempted to define the interrelationship between government and commodity capitalism. No finer recent example could be found than the 9/11 10th Anniversary commemorative activities that took place around the country this past month. Making a rubbing at the 9/11 Memorial

Trapped in a Parallel Universe
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

David Stairs I was over at Design Observer yesterday, reading Rick Poynor’s lament about the depressed state of design criticism. The comments, posted by the usual band of DO nabobs and groupies, were unusually critical. One commentator referred to DO as “a likedy-like NYC mafia,” and another mentioned the “deteriorating state of Design Observer.” This […]

A Few Questions about “The Base of the Pyramid Population”
Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Wes Janz This piece was recently presented at a workshop at Ball State University —Ed. I. Whose vantage point is privileged when we speak of “the base of the pyramid”? Whose construction of “base” and “pyramid” are we talking about? Can we say with confidence that the people (not “population”) at “the base of the […]

When Did Everyone Become a Villager? An Open Letter to Julie Lasky
Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

David Stairs Dear Julie— I’ve been watching with a mixture of mild horror and benign amusement the recent fascination that Africa engenders in Western design circles. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that that portion of the human world known by the UN as the LDC (Least Developed Countries) would become some sort of 21st century refuge, […]

An Open Letter to Bruce Nussbaum
Monday, August 30th, 2010

David Stairs Dear Bruce, Following your much-discussed July 7th “reasoned but misinformed volley” about design imperialism on the Fast Company blog, you were practically cut off at the knees for your viewpoint. The folks at Fast Company were probably happy about this, but it surprised me largely because I considered your piece not only uncontroversial, […]

Letter from Wien
Monday, June 21st, 2010

David Stairs I was recently in Austria where I delivered a lecture in Graz during Graz Design Month. The thing most striking about traveling in Central Europe is the sense of the past preserved. The cities of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire survived WWII better than their German counterparts, having been at the outer range of […]

The More Things Change…
Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

David Stairs Ezio Manzini is an optimist. Four years ago he envisioned a design conference dedicated to the notion that although things must, will, and do change, perhaps we ought to spend more time planning that evolution. This vision was realized last week at the Changing the Change conference held in the World Design Capital […]

Bragging Rights
Friday, March 9th, 2007

An Open Letter to Ric Grefé Mr. Grefé, Remember the ’60s TV western The Guns of Will Sonnett? Airing from 1967-’69, it featured a 73-year-old Walter Brennan in a ridiculously oversized 10-gallon hat, stomping around the Old West with his grandson, out-riding, out-talking, and out-shooting all comers. When I think of a classically overplayed boast, […]