My Design Beliefs

>> Sunday, November 30, 2008

Before my arrival at RISD I knew very little about design. I knew I liked to paint, draw, and work with ceramic sculpture but other than that I was clueless. My past two years at RISD have taught me many different aspects and approaches of design. Being in such a design oriented community my knowledge and desire to learn more have grown exponentially. This class’s approach has forced me to really put to words my thoughts as a designer in the twenty-first century.

I think that like all things we designers are influence by other people, events, and even objects. These influences even outside of the design world come to influence our design thought process. During the past year I have paid close attention to the presidential election. As a first time voter I felt as though I could not vote without knowing the issues that our nation is facing and the candidates’ plans. I became more and more interested in the news in general. I now check daily to keep up on the current events that our country is facing. As more and more people became laid off from their jobs and gas prices soared, the certain decline of the economy became more and more a reality. The economy and the plans to fix it became the central issue in the race for presidency.

This downward sloping economy puts constraints on what we as designers are able to do. Green design, however, seeks to fix some of the cracks in the foundation of our consumer based economy. Much of the worry of where our world is headed as we use up all of the natural resources is caused by the declining economy. Green design is necessary at this point in time. I suggest a modification of how we as designers think of green design. Often it is seen as making end products more energy efficient. I think that the overall system of production, use, then trash has to be re thought as a whole.

What if the end product, after we used it, naturally decomposed in a short manor of time and was reabsorbed into the earth? I propose that to just strive to produce less carbon emissions is not enough. As I have said before it is my belief that we as a whole, designers, and communities, must work together to create a circular system of stuff much like nature’s ecology system. This is a more broad and integrated way of looking at our role as designers.
Aside from my belief in green design, I have come to recognize my personal strengths and aspirations. I have come to realize through my work in classes and most recently in my work with IDCONNECT that communication is something I excel at. My best Ideas and projects have come from working and communicating with others. Without a supportive network and people to bounce ideas off of I as a designer become structurally weakened. I realize that as a professional the key to my success is the overall success of my team.

The reason I personally like Industrial Design is because I have always been fascinated with human interactions. All aspects of industrial design deal with human interaction, either human to human interaction or a human’s interaction with an object. I’m also interests in the psychological interaction between objects and people and how we can design that. My freshman year I did a series of fine art pieces based on an old ideology of beauty. All items were painted a gaudy gold color. The first item was a set of hand guards that shielded the back of the hand from the sun. The second was an oversized Elizabethan collar that sheltered the body from the sun. And the third was an oversized mirror which represented self reflection. These items explore the mental connection between objects instead of just their function. This area of design is brings the emotional truth of objects to the surface. Ideally as a designer that is also an area I would like to explore.


Art and Design

As industrial designers, our education so far has been heavily based on the design side of the spectrum. We are taught to draw perfectly straight lines without a straight edge, and perfect perspective. We are given all of the tools and information we need to be able to design. My design education may have formally started my sophomore year in industrial design, however the building blocks we there since I was a kid. My parents would take me to art museums, and science museums. As well my everyday interaction with objects was an education of objects. I remember when I was a child I was curious as to how the mechanism of my mini stapler worked. During math class I would open it up, take out the spring and disassemble it to the best of my ability. My curiosities as to how things work and what makes one object easier to use compared to the next of the same kind has led me to Industrial design.

It is in solving these problems of design which I find delight. Art and design heavily rely on each other. As designers, we are most defiantly influence by art. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” As designers we use our imagination daily to come up with aesthetically pleasing, or aesthetically provoking objects on a daily basis. I personally would say that design is particular branch of art which seeks to solve human based issues in a constructive way.

Art and design are not separate and cannot be separate by nature, although some designs are more directly influenced by art. By using art as an influence we can often come up with unusual ways to solve a functional problem. Max Le Chinois, a stainless steel and brass colander by Philippe Starck, Is noted for its style. By its self it has become an art object, beautiful enough to stand in the fanciest of kitchens. As my book Antiques of The Future states “Philippe Starck transformed a utilitarian colander into an art object…Most notably, it looks stylish just sitting on the counter doing nothing” (p166.) The regular colander of the time was also very beautiful and a metal one can still be bought for under $20 where as the $330 dollar price tag of Starck’s makes in inaccessible to all but a tiny percentage of the population. Starck’s design changes are not improving upon the functionality of the object which is where the design falls apart. By doubling the height of the colander it makes it less likely to fit under many kitchen sink faucets. This makes it unusable for its original purpose of washing greens and other vegetables.

In my mind the most successful design objects are those that incorporate design and art, without compromising functionality and are yet are widely accessible. We are taught as designers not engineers so we are taught to keep the aesthetics and functionality of items in mind when designing. The key is not to let one’s idea of functionality hinder the artistic vision and reversely not let one’s artistic vision hinder the functionality of design.


A Better World By Design

>> Sunday, November 16, 2008

While in class the other day one of the concepts that really spoke to me was We have talked extensively about how our society is built on the idea of obsolescence. The things that we use get thrown out and end up in a landfill. As pointed out in the Story of Stuff unlike in nature where the ecology is circular so that what is waste to one organism is fuel for another our ecology of stuff is one way. If overall we can change the way we use our resources to be more circular we will be able to better our environment. searches nature for solutions to our problems. AS plants use photosynthesis to create energy we can take a look at the mechanisms that allow them to do so in order to better harness and use energy efficiently. Looking at plants as models, dye sensitive photo cells are able to be incorporated into flexible materials and architectural elements. Traditional silicone based solar cells, although they have a higher output of energy, their fabrication process gives off more harmful gasses. The dye sensitive solar cells cost less to produce, and can collect energy in a wider range of temperature and light conditions.

Also you can find how to create a never fading color like the morpho butterfly whose wing structure creates vibrant blue appearance due to its structure. This has been applied to Morphotex fabrics in which the color differences are created through the varying thickness and structure of the fibers. Many other examples of how nature does it can be found at This site is such a great resource to anyone looking to better change how we go about achieving things. It makes sense to look at how thing occur naturally. If we mimic nature’s ways we get closer to creating a more environmental friendly world.


Designing For the Other 90%

>> Sunday, November 9, 2008

When it comes to designing for the other 90 percent I believe that it is better to try your hardest to solve some of the design problems, than it is to not even try in fear of failure. In our education here at RISD we are taught to think creatively, and to put ourselves in the place of those who we are designing for. True innovation rather than redesign can come out of this thinking and we are the ones who have the creativity to combine unlikely technologies and materials in order to come up with truly innovative designs that might better someone else’s life.

The life straw designed by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen is a straw like device which allows you to drink out of soiled water. The straw purifies the water as you drink. It is currently in use in Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Uganda. It protects people from waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea. It is highly effective and it can filter up to 700 liters per year. Life straw is such an amazing invention because so many children die every year due to drinking contaminated water. It helps to illuminate illness. If the life straw became widely distributed it could potentially eliminate water born diseases, or a majority of them.

A major aspect of design is shelter. The global village shelter by Ferrara Design, Inc. is innovative because it ships flat to locations and is then constructed on site. These portable shelters were used in Mississippi after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the surrounding area. The shelter is composed of Triple wall-laminated corrugated cardboard treated with fire-resistant and waterproof coating, thermoformed general purpose ABS. The shelter for the most part is bio-degradable after its use. It is a very simple solution for temporary shelter needs.

As the two examples above show designing for other far away communities is a reality and a large possibility. Being able to access healthy water is a basic human need that we all should have but don’t all have. Some people spend most of their day walking just to get water for their families. Life straw is such a good design because it ensures healthier water. Imagine after walking six hours to get water, having to build a fire in order to heat and sanitize the water before you even get the chance to drink it.

Reversely the innovative use of unusual materials can influence our design. A few years ago during my travels to Kenya, Africa I visited with the Masai People. They are an indigenous people in Africa. One very interesting characteristic that they are known for is for their ability to jump extremely high, nearly 6 feet in the air. On their feet the Masai men wear shoes made of old tires. Little material separates their feet from the bottom of rock and unstable ground. MBT is a shoe company that had developed and taken inspiration from the Masai’s foot wear. The form of the shoe mimics that of the tire sandals. The Masai are said to not have the usual back pain that we often experience so this shoe seeks to alleviate back pain by challenging more muscles than usually. As designers we also can take inspiration from a much wider base then our current design community.


The Meaning of Objects

>> Sunday, November 2, 2008

Meaning is an interpretive quality. The meaning of objects is derived in originality from societal ideals. As an Industrial designer designs an object he or she may try to change the meaning of an object but ultimately the meaning of something is up to interpretation.

This idea of instilling meaning into one’s work is very prevalent in painting. For example Chris Ofili’s The Virgin Mary created quite a controversy when it was displayed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. “A very black woman cloaked in a stippled, Prussian-blue robe hovers over an intricate golden ground of enamel dots and glitter. Her mantle is open to reveal a black breast made of elephant dung and festooned with pins. The painting rests on two clumps of dung; one is decorated with the word Virgin, the other with the word Mary” (Saltz).

In western civilization, Ofili’s use of dung is seen as outrageous and disrespectful because western society has a different view on cow poop; it is seen as unsanitary and dirty. And so associating poop with the Virgin Mary is seen as a blasphemous act. In many African communities cow dung is sacred. The Masai people of Kenya, Africa use cow dung to build their homes, to clean their hair, and moisturize their skin. The cow is the basis of their lively hood and therefore held in high regards.

I believe that as a designer we can try to change or alter pre-existing meanings of objects within our societal constraints. However there is most often pre-existing meaning attached to objects or the users use of an object. I think that as designers we can design the interaction between a user and between an object or interface such as a game remote, or the interface on a phone. The touch screen interface on the iphone completely changed how people interact with a cellular device. Instead of pressing a green call button to answer your phone you slide your finger across the bottom of the touch screen. Aside from a person’s physical interaction and behavior with an object it is hard to judge whether or not as designers we can control how a person acts or how a person reacts towards an object. Not all people have the same background so not all people will react in the same manor.

There are some basic ideals we can base our designs off of. Many colors have emotional associations that are part of our societal construct. Red is the color of passion and love, it also is related to danger. Green Is related to nature and wellbeing, as well as wealth. Purple is related to royalty which tradition dates it back to roman times. White represents purity and cleanliness where as black represents death, as well as elegance and sophistication. We can use the ideals of emotional color theory and apply them to our designs to try and portray meaning behind an object. I still stand to say the ultimate impression of an object on a person cannot be fully controlled by the designer, but rather guided.


Design Perspective Media

>> Sunday, October 26, 2008


Design Perspective

>> Friday, October 24, 2008

As I was sitting in an Airport terminal at Philadelphia International reading John Maeda’s book Simplicity I realized a new aspect of design that I had never really thought of before. Maeda writes “The average person spends at least an hour a day waiting in line. Add to this the uncountable seconds, minutes, weeks spent waiting for something that may have no line at all… As a child the idea of waiting is something foreign and simply intolerable. But waiting is what we do in the adult world. We do it all the time” (30.) I, at the time was doing just that, waiting for my plane to arrive, waiting to be in Providence, waiting to see all of my friends, and waiting for classes to start back up. The idea of waiting is an integral part of our lives, which drives us to search for the next event than might come our way.

As the speed of the Internet increases and digital media becomes more efficient we expect to find all information in a moment’s notice, we are in a search to reduce the amount of time we spend waiting for answers. You can type in a topic on Google search and a second later have ten thousand websites with different solutions. With such efficient delivery of information available to the masses we have become a fast paced and impatient society, always looking for the next thing to conquer.

The field of design has also become very fast paced. Last year in design principles studio the most played song on everyone’s computers and iPods was Kanye West’s “Stronger.” This song very much encapsulates the current popular approach to design. The opening of the song reads “Work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger” The concept that good design is being able to design in the least amount of time possible and it must improve upon the existing design. The mental attitude towards the design process has become fueled by this fast paced attitude. This attitude has greatly been influenced by mass production of products. As the time it takes to design a product is reduced in order to make cost points, larger corporations are not so much concerned if their products are good but rather how much they are going to make per unit. This assembly line attitude had pervaded into the design.

While it is important to design for manufacturability, and affordability, I believe that is also important to keep in mind the Avant Guard aspects of design as well. Together they fuel each other. High end design often leads to the exploration of new forms and materials that otherwise may not have been seen. Right now many products using smart materials are being developed but because the technology is relatively new and unknown the products are in a very high price range. The introduction to these smart materials is at a high cost, but the more and more the materials become used in products the cheaper the that material will become, and eventually that technology will be available for everyone.

The touch screen is a part of technology that has done just that. When the touch screen was first evolved it was used mostly by larger corporations that could afford to buy touch screens to replace the traditional cash register. I good example of commercial use of a touch screen Is Wawa’s intuitive touch screen ordering system in which you can order and customize your own deli sandwich. The use of this system, installed in 1999, has increased the efficiency of the Wawa deli nearly doubling their sales and efficiency. As the common person became more familiar with using the intuitive touch screen menu touch screen technology began to develop for personal use. HP has come out with the new Touch Smart PC which is a computer run by touching the screen of the computer. This technology is still not affordable to everyone, as this computer at base cost will set you back $1300. The touch screen has become more affordable in the apple Iphone. At a reasonable price it has become available to the masses. When designing, it is important to keep in mind both designing for the masses and designing for the Avant Guard. However as a designer it is important to make a distinction as to which you are designing for.

In my current advanced studio, service design, we have been designing concepts of how a specific service would work to enhance the users experience. The idea of designing not only objects but of designing the use of a service and the different touch points that influence the users opinion has become our focus of design. As a designer I am just beginning to contemplate, how I design, and what aspects are the most important to me. I have realized that to me this idea of human interaction and experience has always been very important to me. My first taste of designing truly on a larger scale for human interaction was last year in the Exhibit design project. In which we were asked to research a design history object, and create an experience that clearly modeled the and presented information in a understandable way. The idea of how someone would interact with a display and how to gain a viewers attention was something we had not covered previously in DP.

As far as my own design perspective is considered I am a young designer and have not fully had a chance to define my role as designer. I know that I like to design more abstractly for experience, because at the end of the day, if the experience that a user has with any product is not a good one then they are extremely unlikely to actually buy that product, or use that service again. The idea of designing more of an idea, something that you cannot physically touch is intriguing and inspiring. How can I as a designer make the waiting and experiences one has more enjoyable?


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