Sunday, November 30, 2008

At The End of The Class-Design that I do

Looking back the class of ID History, it was time that I could think of what design is really about and where my design goes to. We have discussed about broad subjects such as designing a better mouse trap, real human needs of design, meaning of products and relationship between art and design. It was like traveling around design world to me. Different subjects were like traveling different countries and it made me ask myself the very basic questions. Why, what, how do I design? When you travel a long journey, you end up with self-examination sometimes. This class was just like that to me.

As traveling around, I have met lots of great designers from Charles and Ray Eames to newly rising Tokujin Yoshioka and also various design principles such as Functionalism, Design for the other 90% and green design. Then I realized that I never had determinate design principle for myself. I vaguely have had a design preference but that was more like preference as a customer rather than as a professional designer. It was like ringing an alarm bell. I am about to go to real field out of school and I couldn’t tell what my design is about. This class was great chance to think of it and now I can tell where I am heading to. In my view, industrial design filed is divided into two different genres overall, one is practical design and the other one is conceptual design. Practical design means literally design based on practical things such as market research, targeting user group, market segmentation, price point and etc. On the other hand conceptual design is something that might not be proper to mass production or everyday use yet is very innovative and experimental. They could be compared to ‘Pret-a-porter’ and ‘Houte couture’ in fashion design world. There is no ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ or ‘better’ and ‘worse’. They are almost in opposite side but I don’t think they are against each other. Actually it is in a symbiotic relationship. Conceptual design can enrich industrial design field and bring new aspect of design, and practical design can apply conceptual design in our daily life.

I am in the side of conceptual design and I love playing around the boundary between art and design. I like Tokujin Yoshioka’s crystal chair on which you can’t really sit, and I admire Ingo Maurer’s studio-made playful lamps, and I love to appreciate innovative design collection in MOMA. I know some people say those are design just for designers and I read a reply on Tokujin’s chair saying get out of the studio and meet the real people. But then what else we designers can design more? There are full of stuffs already in our daily lives. I am sure the conceptual approach to design can play the role of locomotive that brings us to a new era of design.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is there real boundary between art and design?

These days the term of design is widely used and almost everything is designed in our daily lives. Then what is design? Is there clear boundary between art and design? These questions have been around in my head since I started to study design. It is commonly accepted idea that design is differentiated from art by the fact that it is based on user’s need and function. In other words, design is for other people and art is more like for artist himself. Even though it is true in many cases, there are a lot of works that is really difficult to categorize in either concept. There are works which is in sort of gray area between art and design. Some people might say it as a conceptual design or art design. Whatever it is called, the important thing is that these kinds of works are catching people’s eyes these days and possibly could be a new way out of the deluge of design.

Here is Tokujin Yoshioka’s chair ‘Venus-natural crystal chair’. This chair is literally grown in a tank as crystals form on a sponge-like substrate. What do you want to call it? Chair, maybe? Doesn’t chair means furniture that you can sit on? Do you think you can really sit? Maybe not, then what is it? Some people might think it is meaningless design because it is non functional object or regard it not even as design but I think this is just different concept or different approach to design. He brought the mechanism of the nature into design. I think he designs the whole process to create the chair from the nature and it shows the other way to bring the nature into design. This sort of conceptual approach envisions great potentialities even though it is not usable this stage.

Another experimental design of Max Lamb brings different aspect of design. He also tries to make a chair with unusual process as well as Yoshioka. The process is almost apposite to mass production yet very different from slow design as well. I think his work is about modern craftsmanship and limited edition design. He is not only designing a chair or stool but also presenting a new way of process to achieve his design. This kind of work grants his design special value and makes it beyond the ordinary design.

When strong philosophy or innovative idea is in an object, people regard it as an art piece no matter it is functional or not. I think it is totally up to person to decide it is an art or design. That is not really important thing I guess. The real important thing is the fact that these kinds of innovative approach and sometimes radical tryout make design more rich and expended and eventually it makes our life more rich and creative.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bamboocentral is the website of The Environmental Bamboo Foundation (EBF). It is an Indonesian non-profit organization founded by designer Linda Garland in 1993 to protect tropical forests by promoting and demonstrating the many conservation and development opportunities that bamboo offers.

This website introduces bamboo in various aspects. I didn’t know that bamboo has so many good points. First of all bamboo has strong positive effects to our environment. It removes CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and converting it into plant tissue which release oxygen (O2) as a by-product. 1 hectare of bamboo forest converts 60 tons of CO2 per year comparing to young normal wood-forest only can do around 15 tons of CO2 per year.

Beside its role in the environmental issue, it is amazing material. This website also introduces how great bamboo is as a building material. Bamboo’s tensile strength is 28,000 pounds per square inch versus 23,000 pounds per square inch for steel. In fact, 1000 houses of bamboo are built annually with material coming only from a 60 hectare bamboo plantation in Costa Rica.

"Ply boo" is now being used for wall paneling and floor tiles; bamboo pulp for paper-making; briquettes for fuel, raw material for housing construction; and rebar for reinforced concrete beams.

Not only this, bamboo is also used as a food and medicine especially in Asia.

I think the great thing of this website is that it introduces various strong points of bamboo instead of pushing people to use bamboo just with environmental reason. Even though you don’t really care of green issue there are whole other reasonable facts that would make you willing to use bamboo.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Value of Design

Renowned French designer Philippe Starck says he is fed up with his job and plans to retire in two years, in an interview published in a German weekly. He said that he is ashamed of what he has done. “Everything I designed was unnecessary. I will definitely give up my design work in two years’ time.” I was kind of shocked with this article because he is one of the designers that led me to design field. It made me to question myself if design has incited the consumption-oriented trend and the answer was ‘Yes’. Then why do we design consumption-oriented products which are not really necessary? I think it is because now days’ design is deeply related with business. Company targets consumers who have purchasing power and those people already have what they need. To make an appeal to them, design tends to be trendy and incite consumption to sell more products. That is why most designers focus all their efforts on developing products and service exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers.

In this point of view, I partially agree on the Starck’s statement “Design is dead.” But as we saw in Dr. Bruce Becker’s lecture and Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum exhibition “Design for the Other 90%”, there are still huge amount of people who need design for their fundamental needs rather than fashion trend. There are people who are neglected simply because they don’t have purchasing power. There are people who do not have food to eat either shelter to stay. It is time to look around the rest of the world and use our talent for the people who really need it. The solar cooker we saw in the lecture is great example of what we can do as a designer to make the world better place. We need a motivation and circumstance to work for the other 90%. I think we need some sort of system that connects designers to the organizations such as UNHCR. We can’t really do anything just with idea and design. We need someone to produce it and deliver it to people who need it. If we keep trying to see the real unmet need out there and doing something for the other 90% of the world, it will bring real value into design and make you can be proud of being a designer.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The meaning of a product

Design is based on user’s needs. That is one of the biggest factors that make design different from art therefore the meaning of a product is basically defined by what needs a product is designed for. In other words the meaning of a product is created by designer’s initial idea based on the needs. But as we saw the tow examples of case studies in the class, sometimes products might get different social meaning which is different from the initial idea of designer. In Maines’ case study of the vibrator, it was developed as a medical device but as time changed it became a personal sex toy. Similar thing happened in history of the stiletto heel, it was kind of symbol of new modern woman who was active and economically free. But it changed its meaning in the late 1960s, when women rioted to be free of these heels. These two case studies are good example of how the meaning of design can be accepted in different time and different society, but are they really changed their essential meaning? I mean in both cases products still do the same job even though people accept them in different concept. The vibrator is still used for sexual pleasure whatever it is used for; as a medical purpose or personal pleasure. Also the high heel is still popular fashion item that make woman look more beautiful.
When you design something, you can’t really predict every possibility to be used by users either the social effect that your design would bring. Sometimes it could be used in different way and in could be symbolized in unexpected way. I don’t think that is failure of design because everything changes it meaning in different time and different circumstances. I think what we can really control as a designer is the function of the products. The thing we really have to focus is user’s need. We consider about the unmet needs and fulfill the needs. I think that is the most important meaning of the product and if the product successfully meet the need, it obtains ultimate meaning as design.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Timeless Design

Timeless design
Tesu Kim

These days, a term of ‘Design’ is used broadly. We are living in a world that everything is designed and everybody can say a word about design. Some people say that it is overflowing of design and some people insist design became an attention-seeking frivolity in the show window. Design sometimes tends to debase itself into a part of marketing tool and designers are accused of oversupplying of unnecessary things. How are we going to put a value in design and how are we going to survive as a designer in this chaotic era of design? There might be different answers from different viewpoints but when I see Ingo Maurer’s design, the question becomes frivolity.
Ingo Maurer was born 1932 on the island of Reichenau, Lake Constance, Germany. He trained as typographer in Germany and in Switzerland, studies in graphic design from 1954 to 1958 in Munich. His work is far beyond the boundary of our concept of design as a part of industrialization. One of his great works; Lamp Lucellino is a great example. This beautiful and delicate peace is very simple in terms of manufacturing technique. He attached hand-crafted goose-feather wings to a bulb, which you can even make at home if you are handy. With that simple attach, He creates whole new life and value of a light bulb which has not changed since Edison invented. It does not have high technology that most people admire. There was no precisely calculated marketing strategy. But this lovely wall lamp has captured the hearts over the world and placed as a bestselling item through decades. Then, what makes his design so special and unique? One thing I can tell is that his work is kind of placed on the boundary between art and design. The line between art and design is getting vague and it represents nothing to define what art is and what design is. Art can be regarded as design if it has function and design also can be regarded as art if it touches your mind. I can say design could be the gate through which we bring art into our daily life so that make our life more enjoyable and richer. I am not saying this is all about design; of course there are other missions and other purposes of design. You may more concern about technological issue when you deal with computer or about ergonomic issue when you deal with medical device but does the design that depend on technology or marketing plan go last? When new technology comes out in the market and new trend arise in fashion the products that depend on them end its life. I think timeless design is something that touches people’s mind. I think that is what Ingo Maurer accomplishes in his works and that is why he is called a ‘poet of light’ and his design last long through decades. After design accomplished user’s physical needs and if it goes one step further to touch its user’s spiritual gratification, it would elevate its own value in the name of design.

Monday, October 13, 2008