From: Bruce Sterling <>
Subject: Viridian Note 00039: Starck's New Catalog
To: Viridian List <>

Viridian Note 00039: Starck's New Catalog

Key concepts: Philippe Starck, eco-design, merchandising, tribal futurism, Bruce Sterling promotional tour

Attention Conservation Notice: Contains design manifesto originally written in French.


Entries in the Viridian "Fungal Typography" Contest:

From: (Warren Ellis)

Warren Ellis remarks: Noted French designer Philippe Starck is offering a new manifesto and an accompanying design catalogue. Starck declares that he wants to design an ethical future for his children. This may be tangential to core Viridian concerns, but (it seems to me) it's of vast interest to see this famed designer attacking environmental concerns in the commercial arena, and with great energy and industry.

Starck's "GoodGoods" catalog is not online, but can be ordered free from the website. Below, some excerpts from Philippe Starck's introduction.

"Non-products for non-consumers"

by Philippe Starck

"One fine day, several million years ago, Mrs Cromignonne and Mr Abominet fell in love with their offspring. A new era dawned. Madame strove to protect her infant, Monsieur, to improve posterity. Together, the two of them -- the pragmatic mother and the idealistic, visionary father -- invented the naive concept of progress, which was to be expressed chiefly by the creation and manufacture of tools supposed to make our life easier and even contribute to our happiness. Much, much later -- that is to say, in our times -- it became evident that the most generous ideals tend to be the first to degenerate.

"Man found himself many a time a slave to the tools he created to serve him. Although there are a few rare objects whose integrity, practicality and sense of purpose have remained intact, a plethora of others exist only for themselves, without humour, love or fancy. Farewell, dreams of happiness...

"As I matured, I realised I could try to correct an injustice to which I was myself probably an accomplice.

"Because I am neither a philosopher, nor a sociologist, nor a statesman; because I lack the intelligence to grapple with the problem on theoretical grounds, I decided to be pragmatic.

"Grasping the wills and won'ts, the needs and desires of the citizen I would like to have as a friend and neighbour, I have attempted to describe the equipment he or she is likely to carry and maybe, through him or her, catch a glimpse of the society in which I'd like to see my children and those of my friends growing up.

"What a vast, pretentious and naive programme this is.

"I therefore tried to find, collect, correct or create (when necessary) objects which are honest, responsible and respectful to people.

"Not necessarily beautiful objects, but good objects.

"I soon realised I was facing an impossible task. After research and selection, very few products could meet my stringent standards. Yet, although the ones I approved were still far from my ideal of perfection, they did convey a certain spirit; an alternative direction, a new way of being.

"Today, I am able to offer you a catalogue of these objects, a compendium I would like to call a catalogue of 'non-products for non-consumers.' (...)"

Warren Ellis remarks:. What follows are: organic foods, organic clothes (organic cotton, no chemical treatments, some grown on former coca land in Peru), a series of t-shirts depicting the growth of a foetus to term ("Pride becomes didactic"), slogan t-shirts ("Tomorrow will be less", "Nous Sommes Les Mutants", "Moral Market"), shades ("governed by a commitment to non-fashion"), bed linen, lamps, respirator masks ("to be safely equipped for any possible technological, chemical, bacteriological or radioactive mishap is neither a symptom of paranoia nor the sign of an excessively pessimistic nature").

Starck again: "Non-products are confronted with a grid of requirements based on such criteria as: justification of existence, integrity of purpose, longevity, moral elaboration, didacticism, political significance, symbolic social significance, sexual significance, human responsibility, fair cost, fair price, creativity, and, sometimes, humour, poetry and respect."

GoodGoods is not an essentially Viridian enterprise. But it does provide lessons. Starck exerts himself in the attempt to make living the GoodGoods way desirable. He does his damnedest (it's probably more convincing in the original French, but GoodGoods is solidly bilingual throughout) to make GoodGoods a club, a tribe he's inviting you to join. He's spent two years on this, and now he's providing you the chance to get in on the ground floor with him.

In a year's time, Pope-Emperor, you and yours will be faced with real-world application to that same problem. Starck seems to me to be bench-testing his solutions to that problem right now.

Warren Ellis


(((Well, see, that's the advantage of being an actual designer like Philippe Starck, as opposed to being a lame, English-speaking, sociophilosophical sci-fi guy who intelligently grapples with this crap on theoretical grounds. I spent a couple days inside a Philippe Starck hotel once. It was a very swank joint, but it was like living in somebody's Filofax. Nevertheless, I heartily concur with M. Starck that this is an excellent time to make fools of ourselves with vast, pretentious and naive programs. He couldn't be more right about that. Absolutely, Philippe! With you all the way, mon frere! And this is no mere tepid theoretical agreement, either. I'm gonna buy something of yours -- probably that Starck lemon juicer that looks like a rocketship.)))

(((The Viridian List will now enjoy a brief hiatus while my publisher sends me out on the road to sign my new novel. If you're on the West Coast of the USA and you feel some urge to press the papal flesh, drop on by.)))

Bruce Sterling's "Distraction Tour"

Wednesday Jan 6, 1999 University Bookstore, 4326 University Way, NE, Seattle, 7-8PM

Thursday, Jan 7 Powell's. 1005 West Burnside, Portland 7:30 - 8:30 PM

Friday Jan 8 Stacey's, 581 Market Street SF CA, 12:30-1:30PM Dark Carnival 3086 Claremont Berkeley, 6-7PM

Saturday Jan 9 Dangerous Visions, Sherman Oaks 2-4pm

Sunday Jan 10 Mysterious Galaxy 3904 Convoy Street #107 Burbank 2-3:30 PM