Felix Kosok, born in 1988, is a research fellow at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main and at the Leibniz Institute Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research. He received his doctorate at the HfG Offenbach under Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch and Prof. Klaus Hesse. His research focuses on design aesthetics and political graphic design. In addition to his research, he is himself a practitioner of graphic design with studio069, founded in Frankfurt in 2015, and has already developed numerous projects for clients such as the SCHIRN Kunsthalle, the Institute for Social Research and the Jewish Community of Frankfurt. Felix Kosok has already received many awards for his work.
Form, function and freedom.
On the aesthetic-political dimension of design
The relationship between design and democracy is not only a matter of the efficient, transparent or participatory structuring of political institutions and their processes. Rather, design must be defined in its interaction with a culture of freedom that is constitutive for democracy. Thus, a negotiation of the political dimension of design, which this work pursues, shifts to a fundamental level. Design, as design, has a political significance that cannot be separated from its aesthetic dimension. Design interprets a functional context, a function, which it concretizes in form - but it does so in a way that keeps the special nature of the respective interpretation present. In a freedom for the function, design in its concrete form therefore always implicitly refers to a fundamental designability of all things. If one understands design in this context as a reinterpretation that can only ever be found in the mediation of form and function, this potential capacity of design to shape extends to precisely those social purposes that in their conventional form appear to us as second nature and as unchangeable. At this stage, the question of good design that keeps this designability present returns in an anti-essentialist way.
The work thus focuses on this aesthetic-political understanding of design, which is characterised on the one hand by the discussion of a modern, "democratic functionalism", and on the other by the examination of postmodernism and its ambivalence - between legitimate criticism of modernity and the aesthetic-political arbitrariness of form. In addition to Daniel Martin Feig's definition of design as an irreducible embodiment of functions, it is argued that in the specificity of its concretion, in a surplus of form, an aesthetic tension to the interpretable universal is preserved and becomes potentially noticeable.
In this aesthetic tension of the respective, special concretion to the general, the purpose refers to this principled designability of all designed things. Design is thus not only the neutral background of our everyday life, but also the stage on which the constitution of our living environment is negotiated. However, this aesthetic-political understanding of design is put to the test in two ways in the decaying form of a democratic government and society, in the post-democracy after Jacques Rancière and Colin Crouch. While in the rhetoric of an invisible design of social technology, ideas of all-designability continue to be problematic, the visible potentials of design in the post-democratic "reign of all-visibility" are lost in an empty production of difference, which ultimately empties even previously significant political differences through design. Since the 1980s, both tendencies of decay can be observed in a commercialization of design. Most recently, it was the social media of digital capitalism that perpetuated both the socio-technological aspects in a revival of social engineering and the empty production of difference in (self-)marketing. Contrary to these tendencies of democratic decay, the normative concept of an aesthetic-political design is given contour through its political-theoretical application. As a reaction to the loss of the deniability of decision making on the one hand, and the loss of the meaning of differences on the other, design establishes its own kind of critique as part of a dispute about the design of our living environment and in this necessarily remains related to a public, contentious culture of design criticism. In its efforts to realize good things, it is at the same time about keeping its own deniability as design conscious. To maintain this controversy about good design is the task of a critical theory of design, to which this volume makes a contribution.