Highlights of 50 years of design

Highlights of 50 years of design

Total Design / Total Identity: 1963 - 2013

With every step,
the intention becomes clouded.
To go forward,
the traveller turns around.
- Lao Tzu

The same, 
but different every time

How do you remain loyal to yourself in an age that demands something different every time?

When I was working at Baak, I received a handwritten letter from its founder, Charles Maitland. It was a short note containing a key phrase I will never forget: “You do everything differently, but you do exactly what I meant.”

The same thing, but differently.

As a successor, you can do everything differently - and I mean everything - as long as you don’t stray from the essence. In general terms that would appear to be true, although it is hard to establish exactly what the essence actually is. It is also a language game.

Edu Feltmann, one of my teachers, went as far as saying that people are “chunks of flesh that produce language”. We cast spells with which we try to turn the world to our advantage. We strive for meaning in a world in which we then get hopelessly lost - precisely because of this insatiable language ability.

I’m digressing from the point.

Development and change go hand in hand. The words might mean the same, they are at least sisters. When Ulysses returned to Ithaca from his long and adventurous travels to Troy, he was unrecognisable - even to his son. Externally, he was completely changed. Only his dog, Argos, recognised him.

If two old friends in their fifties meet each other, they put their hands on each other’s shoulders and say, “You haven’t changed a bit.” But for the outside world, they have become unrecognisable and not ‘just older’.

With a bit of luck, you will know what life is all about - after having walked a long and winding road. Life is to be lived forwards, but is understood backwards - Kierkegaard once said. We lag behind.

Whoever wants to be loyal to himself, should know himself. What is essential, what really matters? This applies to both human beings and companies, but perhaps somewhat less to factories than to designing professionals. Even though I’m not even too sure of that. Why do I do what I’m doing? What drives me? Anyone who asks himself these questions regularly, is better able to deal with the ‘what and how’. These terms change continuously, but you can rely on the ‘why and where to’ because they remain unchanged.

Lu Tzu’s Tao seems to signify this: pausing at the key question helps the traveller progress.

Harry Starren
President of the Federation of Dutch Creative Industries (FDCI)

If more information about our roots, please do not hesitate contacting us: 

Bob van der Lee

Managing director, Total Identity
T +31 20 750 95 58

Hans P Brandt

M +31 20 750 95 65