Year Zero?

I have just returned from the OFFF festival in Barcelona. Earlier this year, they asked me for a statement about the future. They announced this the Year Zero, a restart. Go back to zero, wipe out the past, etc. Not sure I agree with that, but that’ll be the topic for another comment.

Usually, I deny these requests because I don’t like making predictions about subjects I don’t know. But they insisted, and in the end I sent them this little piece:

Rethink Design, Redesign Thinking.
As a designer, I like the future.

After centuries of being dominated by technology – from cutting wood to printing negatives, from baking mud bricks to reinforcing concrete – designers of all disciplines now have the tools to present and make anything imaginable. There is no excuse for not coming up with new concepts. Designers and architects can no longer blame their shortcomings on the limits of technology. There will always be clients to blame – that has not changed since the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of that little chapel in the Vatican.

The best thing, however, is the fact that we are beginning to realize something else: we have talents that go beyond making things work well and look good. We can also take apart ideas, look at them, throw away what is not needed and put them back together again. Designers can redesign thinking. And we need to, because nobody else will.


  1. Jk

    Very inspiring lecture in Barcelona. Thank you for that and for (ITC) Officina. Greetings from Belgium.

  2. John Hudson

    Apparently the organisers really do have no history. If they had, they would have known that the concept of ‘Year Zero’ was first popularised by Mussolini. I have seen Italian books of the fascist era with the publication date given as e.g. ‘Year Seven’.

  3. Yes, and in the central station in Milano you can still see inscriptions with the year of construction given as VI. As on many other buildings built until 1943. The year Mussolini came to power was their year zero.

  4. Dear Erik,

    Thanks for a very, very interesting and inspiring session on OFFF the 2011th One of the best and rewarding


    Magnus Gerbola
    Copenhagen, Denmark

  5. alan

    redesign thinking? What are you talking about? And as for designers being the only ones who can do it, that’s giving us rather more influence than we have.

  6. Interesting comment: “The best thing, how­ever, is the fact that we are begin­ning to real­ize some­thing else: we have tal­ents that go beyond mak­ing things work well and look good.” Totally agree.

  7. I am not talking about the influence we have, but our talents: being able to visualize thoughts and ideas is very powerful. That is what I mean by redesigning thinking. We can make people understand things, we can communicate thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *