TOO much of what passes for modern design is 'meretricious tat' and too many new buildings are just rubbish, outspoken design guru Stephen Bayley claimed in York this week.

Speaking at the launch of the 2016 York Design Awards Mr Bayley, who co-created the London Design Museum with Terence Conran, said he didn't think developers were all bad. "I think most of them are deplorable!" he said.

In a provocative speech to more than 100 people at Bootham School on Tuesday, Mr Bayley set out to try to answer the question 'what is good design?'

But it was easier to say what design wasn't than what it was, he admitted.

Real design wasn't a commodity you could buy. And it wasn't about 'brands'. Attempts in the 20th century to 'commodify' design and make it something that could be bought had been disastrous. "Instead of being intelligent and humane, too much seems to be preposterous, meretricious tat."

Good design wasn't about adding 'features' that had no purpose to make new buildings look more interesting, he added. And it wasn't about putting bits of the inside of buildings on the outside, as Richard Rogers did with the Pompidou Centre. "If this is what design is, I think we could probably do without it."

Instead, design was a process, he said: something that people do. It involved intending to make things better. And it has been around for millennia. "As far as I know, there was no budget for Stonehenge. But somebody decided what it should be, and what it should mean."

The closest he came to a definition was to say that good design was 'something that makes you feel better'.

And to work, especially in an historic city like York, it required balancing of the old and the new. The man with no knowledge of things past fell into a 'beastly sottishness', he said. But we needed to look forward, too. One of the greats things about good design, he said, was that it involved doing things better than before. To give up on that dream would be crushing to the spirit.

There was no easy way to ensure that we got better buildings in future, he said. But it would help if we all learned to appreciate good design better, by looking at things with a "consistent, concious, resolute (attempt to) distinguish quality from mediocrity."

Speaking afterwards, York Design Awards chair Janet Hopton said: "Stephen Bayley's perspectives on design were extremely interesting, provoking discussion and... giving everyone food for thought."

Entries are now open for this year's Awards, which are in their tenth year.

Builders, architects, developers and building owners have until March 18 to submit entries. Judges will visit each entry, and winners will be announced at an awards evening at the Ron Cooke Hub at the university of York on June 22.

To find out more about the awards, visit