Saturday, November 22, 2008

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.

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