Philosopher, author, co-founder of social enterprise Living Architecture
and founder of alternative education institution the School of Life
, Alain de Botton shared his ideas, not to mention his impressive wealth of knowledge, with attendees at the Big Ideas Breakfast in London.
The event was hosted by qualitative research and brand strategy agency, Flamingo
, in collaboration with The School of Life.
De Botton asserted that architecture and design are important as they suggest ways of being and seeing. He cited the contrast of sparsely decorated Protestant churches, compared to lavishly decorated Catholic Churches, to illustrate the idea that putting people in beautiful environments can reinforce certain beliefs and encourage them to behave well. De Botton explained: 'There is an argument that investing in beauty will prompt people to make a change, but at the end of the day design / architecture is an invitation or suggestion, not a law.'
De Botton explained that any design allows us to assign a set of values. He believes: 'You can't discuss aesthetics without discussing politics, philosophy, etc. It is amazing how rich in communication all objects of design are. For example, we can assign genders, emotions and politics to objects.'
Based on that idea, De Botton believes that: 'All works of design are not suggesting what life is like, but suggesting what life might be like. We should view all works of art, architecture and design as a promise. A logo is a promise of what an organisation might be like.'
De Botton views this as a challenge for all designers, referencing the development of the city of Brasilia as a promise to Brazil of what the country might be like: 'Often architects / designers are ahead of the curve, making a promise that we can then catch up with.'
De Botton cited the Apple Store and pop-up destinations to explain his belief that 'sensory perception rewards immersion in a space'. He continued, 'a website only occupies a few inches of someone's life, but these stores use architecture to suggest messages.'
The philosopher also addressed issues of heritage and permanence, pointing out that something of genuine quality can date without becoming redundant. He asserted that we should aim to create 'brands and messages that, even though we recognise they're old, we appreciate them'.
Or, in other words: 'Make sure your messages are the nostalgia of tomorrow.'