Sunday, November 30, 2008

I believe the most difficult thing in existence is to plan out your future. I have never been any good at it. I have always managed to live in the moment and to shun predictions of the future. However, I do like to have an idea of what path I would like to follow if I live long enough to stand before it. I have always dreamed of design evolving into something much more than an inexplicit cultural phenomenon. I would be much happier seeing it as a beacon of unity for all great minds to gather, similar to a political party or a union. All great minds would work together to solve problems and take humanity beyond our very comprehensible limits.
Seeing as this notion is incredibly unlikely, I will share a dream that serves as a more tangible opportunity. I would like to start a company that buys corporate waste and turns it into household products. Turning waste into waste seems as though it is the most sensible way to approach the problem of cost-efficiency and sustainability. In addition, this company would be take back products that have been discarded, and use them in different ways that benefit humanity. An example would be to use the wood from spent furniture to build a shelter for a refugee family. The company would be named Egabrag, garbage backwards. Maybe that will even be the slogan; “garbage backwards”. So as you can see, I do a little bit of dreaming, but defining my future remains impossibly.
I suppose I am aware of my mission as a designer, and it is simply to make sense. I don’t want to go out into the world and design glittery handbags or classy phones, rather aid humanity it its ability to sustainably innovate. Making trash out of resources is insensible. Running a society off of resources is insensible. Not to say there is no room for beautiful products, rather to infer a balance in their manufacturing processes.
Humans have done a funny thing. It is natural for things to die and return to earth in relative haste. Humans have created some things that the earth will never assimilate with. This notion of non assimilation is difficult to grasp considering it is un-natural. I always like to think of the dynamic of humans and earth is similar to that of a mother and her child. Each stage of our evolution is another era in the life of a child. When we were Neanderthals, we were the innocent baby cared for by the earth. We slowly grew older and started to break away from our mother. But soon, just as all people realize, we will need the dynamic that is our mother.
It isn’t easy to structure my train of thought, and I apologize for any confusion suffered during this essay. It isn’t easy for me to comprehend my life, let alone the universe. In reality I have no idea what my life will become. All that I can safely say is that I am thoroughly excited, and grateful for all of the events prior to this moment of my existence. I’m not just excited on my own behalf, but on humanity’

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A tree starts with a seed. A product starts with an idea. I believe that it is beneficial for a designer to be able to explore the artistic side of design without repercussions. Artistic exploration is very crucial to the development of future ideas, especially when dealing with the development of a product. It is this exploration of shear aesthetics that allow the mind to travel freely about the realm of “normal” design. Designers are always dealing with constraints, and it is beneficial to step outside this realm. Design in the artistic sense is a direct representation of the artisan’s unfiltered creative energy.
On the contrary, to confuse these two opposites is something harmful. When a designer thinks that aesthetics overpower functionality, it is detrimental to design. If your intention as a designer is to make beautiful museum one-offs, in a way it destroys the whole point of design. I have a problem with people who mindlessly design objects with no pre-conceived objective, unless it’s for your own inspiration. Philippe Stark is one of the designers I dislike for this very purpose. He confuses art and design to make a product that’s aesthetics override its function. An example of this would be Dr. Skud, from the Alessi collection. I understand that his intentions were to bring comedy and art into a macabre tool, but for 20 dollars? That’s a little steep for the same job as a rolled up magazine.
On the subject of the Campana brothers, I disagree with their design logic. In their Dezeen interview, Humberto Campana said this: “for me design is to bring emotion, to be fun, to bring joy to people; not function or form”. In my opinion, this interview makes them seem less credible. To think that these “famous” designers wouldn’t want anything to do with handling the product after it leaves their hands. It’s easy to design an aesthetic solution when the problem is non-existent. The Campana brothers aren’t solving any problem but their own boredom, and it is hard for me to understand why they are so well liked. They haven’t designed a solar cooker for refugees, or a new car, or even anything that didn’t look like an amalgamation of congested thoughts. With all this said, I can respect what they are trying to do but it is rather hard for me to appreciate their work.
There is one thing that is certain in this realm of design; the possibilities are boundless. There are no real boundaries accept for opinion, there are not facts to support logic. It is in this way, design acts as though it were applied creativity; bordering the universe of the visual and the functional. It is free of any social tethers that force this ideal to the ground. Industrial Design doesn’t need a definition; it is an interpretive means used to describe the indescribable. All that I am capable of is accepting the notion that my skill, like my life, is undefined.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Since the birth of my consciousness, I have lived two lives. One on land, and one at sea. This world of endless horizon was made known to me by my father, a merchant marine captain who has spent his entire life in water. It is psychologically and physically the hardest environment in which an organism can survive. Unlike the land, when your ocean bound you are bound to your resources at hand. You are vulnerable to the howling winds, rolling waves and scorching sun.
This early exposure of this world gave me insight as a designer. My upbringings were not that of an artist, but a handy man. I was exposed to unique experiences that make it easy to empathize with certain situations. My description of the ocean is a direct reflection of my life.
When discussing design, I am purely a functionalist. I like to achieve the most use out of the smallest amount of material and energy. I believe that all design should serve some sort of function and or purpose other than aesthetics. It does not make sense for a company to manufacture products out of new resources. It is impractical considering the fact that their product will eventually become waste. We should be making waste out of waste, and leave the natural resources to projects that are more permanent.
What I am describing is not green design, rather it is a more practical way to solve problems. Junk made of Junk. I associate green design with expensive short term products for the few who think that world can be “saved” using their egos as life rafts. The world just needs mankind to start making sense, to stop contradicting the natural ways of our species.
Industrial Design is a very broad field, open for interpretation and manipulation. As an industrial Designer you have the ability to go down any given path within the design realm. Unfortunately, many designers choose to become mass manufacturers of products. In essence, these designers are the basis for many of the problems that plaque our society. Contrastingly, there are designers who take social and environmental matters into their design processes who counteract the mass production tendencies of this other half of industrial designers.
In my opinion, designing with environmental and social responsibility is the most crucial. When most people buy products, they are only renting garbage. Most products spend a small portion of their lifetimes in the hands of the consumer, and a majority of their life in the trash. Thusly, designers should focus more on designing a solution for the death of products. What happens after its life? Will it end up in a land fill or in the frame of a car? Many countries around the world have shown their innovative nature in this way. Take for example the country of Germany, where landfills became overcrowded relatively quickly. 15 years later, they have re molded their society around the idea of social responsibility.
This notion of a product having multiple lives opens up a whole window of opportunity for designers to utilize. This new philosophy could open up a new point of view for design science. Instead of making products that live linearly, you could create a product that would circle through its existence indefinitely. A fast food container could be hydroponically modified so that when the consumer is through using it they are able to throw it in their garden, providing the plants with nutrients. In this way, we must think of products as humans. Once we are dead, our body returns t the earth and fuels the next generation of life. We are perpetuated in our death, and I believe that products should be too.
If designers collaboratively have this mentality, it would mean the end of bad design. There wouldn’t be any more plastic diapers or paper cups, every aspect of design would be calculated and planned. This ideal may seem utopian and socialistic, but it is necessary if our goal as designers is truly to better society. I believe that one day all products will be constructed out of the physical and spiritual aspects of “dead” products. This evolution will inset more meaning into the mundane, and restructure the defined elements of design.
Humans have a knack for creating their own problems. It is our nature to make messes, and then clean up. However, it is this process that gives us our wit and innovative nature. Things like climate change are necessary for our evolution as a species. It is a catalyst, brought forth by the one and only mankind. Without this threat, there would be no reason to change our ways. Now that we are confronted, we must remember that thing Darwin said. Adapt or Die.
Interaction Unclear
Products are passive. Without human interpretation, interaction or appreciation, the nature of a product would not matter. It is human interaction that gives a product life. It is our job as industrial designers to utilize this human interaction when we create products. A product that does not need human interaction to give it meaning is not a product.
I believe that part of the reason why industrial designer’s jobs are so difficult is because we are at the mercy of the market. The market determines how valuable a product is. Take the iPod for example, the product is reliant on interaction with humans. When a human interacts with an interface, the product is given a whole new meaning. This interaction opens up a whole new window of possibilities and interpretation for the user. I do not think any designer has any sort of control over the way in which the user will react. There isn’t any designer in the world that could calculate people’s reactions to a product. We have no control over our user’s reactions.
However, I do believe that as designers are able to make people use a product in a certain way. That is where the basis of design lies. We solve specific problems using design, thusly creating a specified product. Specified products have a specified use. Rather, it makes more sense to say that the user has more control over us. Our salaries rely on a constant output of products, made possible by the user. We design for them. In addition, making people do something the way you intended is a very difficult thing to do. Designing a product that is intended to be oriented or used in a certain way. Society has laid a basis for how you use certain things.
Industrial designers are responsible for the diversity of forms we see in our society. It is this power to channel societal energy into our products that makes designers necessary. Without different form interpretations, forms would be without exploration. A chair would be a seat with four legs. There would be no exploration of what a chair actually is. A chair would have a strict definition by which society would follow.
Designers also possess the power of innovation through form knowledge. We are agents of creation; without designers, the world would evolve at a snail’s pace. Every new technology that rears its head needs to be put into societal context. Designers create this societal context by merging for with technology. Furthermore, we conform to the advancement of humanity as opposed to sticking with old ways.
Design in Evolutionary Terms

Industrial Design is an intriguing phenomenon. It is one of the many ways humans react to their environment. It is a culture driven by the natural realm in which designers are only attempting to follow in Mother Nature’s footsteps. Our purpose as designers is to provide a problem with an answer. We are taught to notice natural occurring forms, and utilize them to provide our answer.
Consider the evolution of bioluminescent organisms. Mother Nature has made a conscious decision to give these animals this tool in response to their problem. Take the Angler fish for example. The evolutionary step prior to the Angler fish was a fish with a large mouth, but no glowing stalk. The Angler fish needed evolution to modify his existence to make him a more effective hunter. Mother Nature is perhaps one of the greatest designers of all time. Form always meets function, and her form language is universally understood.
Design is a religion. If you consider most monotheist religions, the entire purpose is to achieve a close relationship to a god. As a designer, you’re striving to achieve tangibility with the natural realm. Anything that human’s contrive is inspired by a natural occurrence of form. This observation later evolves into our idea, which over the course of time becomes our answer. The purpose of these timelines is to further illustrate this evolution of designer’s answers.
As humanity develops, so does mankind’s ability to create. The chronological ordering of objects shows the development of each designer’s thought processes. Consider Samuel Gragg and Ricardo Blummer. Both of them have a completely reasonable reaction to an age old problem. The difference in styles is obvious, mainly because their styles were born 100 years apart. The point is that they both reacted to the time period in their own specific ways. As technology advances, the boundaries of conceptual though broadens. This is the chronological difference in form language we see in these timelines.
These timelines also show how designers solve problems, versus regular people who solve problems. The shakers and Quakers of early America were said to be some of the greatest carpenters in the world. They constructed numerous pieces of artwork that we designers revere today for its form. Did the notion of designing forms to answer a question develop over time, or has it always been a part of the world? A Quaker would not call himself a designer, he would call himself a craftsman. What’s the difference? There isn’t any. He is responding to the world through means he knows best. A designer does the same. So the word “Designer” is an evolutionary term. One of the many meanings of the word ‘Design’ is to assign in thought or intention; purpose. That is the similar trait between me and the Quakers, our sense of purposeful intention.

What constitutes product design? Why must our society rely on a consistent output of products to remain stable? The answer lies within the history of capitalism. Capitalism is very vertical, meaning the whole purpose of capitalism is to be on top. To be on top, you need to have a new product make its debut every couple years to stimulate the market. Once resources rise in value, transportation costs double, and liquidation sets in, the company loses profit. Sustainable design is the answer. I think that design will change from creating new products with raw materials to creating products using industrial waste.
There is no better time like now. The problems that are happening in the world today are a sign of humanity’s time to evolve. Where are all the resources of the future going to come from? What are we going to do with all the left over’s? I believe that design will evolve from making and into taking. Companies will work in coordination with waste management facilities to receive the materials they require, a.k.a. industrial waste. Using industrial waste as opposed to raw material will be more efficient, and in the long run, cheaper.
I predict that after this manufacturing Dark Age design will become organic. As technology advances, our attempts to replicate the natural world become more accurate. I think that eventually, designers will work with biochemists to write the genetic code for the next wave of products. As opposed to being manufactured out of raw materials or waste, growing products organically would prove to be more efficient. You could buy a plant that grows cups made of calcium, and when the cups break you can just throw them in your back yard and they will naturally return to the earth.
A revolution of design is inevitable when you take into account dwindling resources, growing population, and a decrease in space. We literally will not be able to continue this mass production hysteria in future generations. Whatever means we adopt to solve this epidemic will be much more economically efficient and morally sensible. Forms will evolve with humanity, and will continue to become more intriguing.
I am very excited for the future. I don’t think there has been any greater time in history for designers. The world is ripe for ideas, and it is these problems we are facing that are only solvable through science and design. It is design that will reinvent the world and propel humanity into the stars. Perhaps design is only a foundation for another culture to evolve. Just as ideas, materials, and humanity evolves, so will the perimeters of design.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sitting on History

In my opinion, chairs are the most interesting product in the world of design. There are so many different interpretations and iterations that it makes my head spin. Every chair is some designer's interpretation of an age old problem; sitting. I am obsessed by the amount of architecture and physics involved in creating a chair. At the same time, i very rarely care about what kind of chair im sitting on as long as its comfortable. If its not comfortable, then i take note of it just to serve as a note to myself never to buy it.