Design and Violence

HOW TO KILL PEOPLE

George Nelson, 1960

Efficient violence as a problem for design

This short film by architect and industrial designer George Nelson takes as its subject the evolution of weaponry and effective violence as a challenge to be solved by design. Made as a one-off short film for CBS, George’s history of the relationship between design and violence was made all the more devastating for its calm and measured delivery. Against the backdrop of the Cold War arms race and the postwar fetishisation of conspicuous consumption, George traced a chronology of violent objects from prehistory to his present – from the handheld prehistoric rock to post-Hiroshima fears of the atom bomb and nuclear attack. In light of today’s drone-operated missile attacks and distant, mediated warfare, the effects of the increased distance between those who operate weapons and those who suffer their consequences remains most profoundly prescient and should continue to concern designers — and us all — in the present.

Image courtesy of the George Nelson Foundation/Vitra Design Museum Archives.