Profession? “Dreamer.”

“I am a professional dreamer,” he says, and the camera zooms in on the reaction of his students, who are all there competing to impress the revolutionary designer and the proclaimer of those words, Philippe Starck.

The camera should have seen my face. I want to be a professional dreamer.

I stopped reading Hunter Thompson and began watching the TV show, called “Design for Life,” which I discovered par hasard.  I had never heard about it, only its host Philippe Starck.

This was apparently the first episode and the challenge was ostensibly simple: go to a supermarket in Paris and find two objects which fit one of the following categories–Function, Gender or Ecology. If you pick function, one object must correspond with utility, and the other must be something deemed useless. If you pick gender, one must represent masculinity and the other femininity. If you opt for ecology, one object must convey an ecological message and the other product an unsustainable one. They had 100 euros each to obtain these products.

And then, the 12 students departed to the supermarket in military jeeps. A voiceover of Starck explains how this particular jeep should help his students understand what he’s aiming at in this challenge. A military jeep, he says, is not a car that is marketed to the public therefore its design is almost raw. But its function, to take you from point A to point B, remains intact. It is a simple but powerful object.

The students arrive at the supermarket and begin tinkering with the countless objects. Some explain to the camera the reasoning behind their choices and others converse between themselves.

Once back at the studio, they must tell a story about each object and try to persuade Starck why each falls into the category of their choice. I had originally thought some of them were good, but once I saw Starck quickly and concisely dismiss his students’ explanations and choices, I begin to understand the premise of the challenge. For example, one student, for the Gender category, bought a condom to represent male qualities and a tampon to represent female qualities. Starck thought the objects were too obvious and the qualities wrongly attributed. He said the tampon’s phallic nature had more male qualities and the condom’s sensual and soft nature had more feminine qualities.

Most of the students who chose products with ecological/non-ecological attributes went for the things that were too obvious–bicycles (good), batteries (bad). Only one student chose a product that actually made you think about the ecology in an impacting way–gardening gloves. Eating organic and natural products is better than half of the crap we eat. The gloves promote positive actions.

Only one other student hit the nail on the head and deeply impressed Starck. But all of them failed miserably. Some took it too literally or went with the safe object. Others completely missed the point, like the girl who thought a frozen meal represented function.

Starck was disappointed and, because so many of his students failed, he had to create another challenge. And this is when the channel went dark. Great, just when it was getting interesting.

Despite the technical issues, however, I learned a very important lesson. One that, though I wish to express it in my own words, I won’t. I’ll leave you to read this interview where Philippe Starck explains who he is and who he is not. All I will say is that it has to do with being a professional dreamer.


Read it here: Philippe Starck interview







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