Computers are essential to new means and methods in design as everywhere else in the world today. This goes without question and I believe we need no further argument to justify their place. But we can argue about where, when and how much. As a design educator, I am very concerned by what I see in the classroom/studio. Basic sensitivities to form, material, scale and ergonomics are in decline. Students are easily and heavily seduced by the computer’s capacity to deliver images that gleam and glisten on screen, regardless of how they might one day feel and work in the hand. This phenomenon is ironically worsened by the one-two punch of CAD programs coupled with robot printers that generate 3D models. The work of the robots makes it all too easy to create something that looks shelf and market ready, with little thought, little testing, and almost none of the essential hand to mind feedback that made our species uniquely capable of dreaming and building such a complex environment for ourselves. I use the computer and I use 3D printers. But I use them in careful conjunction with traditional studio skills that I am proud to have studied and mastered and I would never give a user a designed tool that I gave to a robot for production before deeply vetting its form and function with my own two hands. I am sincerely concerned about a future wherein we find ourselves manually bankrupt and beholden to technologies that undermine the very ingenuity and self-reliance that make us human. This article in the WSJ speaks to that with interesting data.
My hearing is a little shot so I frequently hear people ask each other for this. It brings me a quiet laugh so I thought I’d mock it up and share.
Watching the fire on TV around Christmas Time is a seasonal favorite. When I was a kid my sister and I thought we were very clever and postmodern to put our little TV in the fireplace of our livingroom as some kind of meta statement on how best to view the yule log channel. Well, the above wood burning stove is not a joke, and takes the yule log channel to a whole other level by modeling the fireplace itself on the design of contemporary flat screen TVs. So let’s hear it for the folks behind the Scan 57 for their free standing wood burning stove, though I’m not exactly sure where to begin.
This Saturday Night Live Digital Short is a great little critique of design absurdity and malfunction. The attention to dysfunctional details across the Starbuck’s experience, i.e. condiments table, is excellent. And the line extension with a “larger, non-functioning machine” is genius. It’s funny, if also pretty racist in a 1980′s kind of way. Speaking of 1980′s, I like the nod to Knight Rider— note that the Verismo’s illuminated voice indicator is taken from KIT.
I don’t usually blog about fashion. The apparel industry is a whole other can of worms. And while fashion should in my opinion be considered alongside product and architecture as parallel subsets under the modern rubric of industrial design, it is not yet, and so I leave it at that and stay largely away.
But today my wife sent me a Sartorialist post with a marvelous photo of a woman riding a bicycle. She so often sends photos of bikes and chic cycling that I almost missed what makes this photo shine– the woman’s right prothetic leg. It’s easy to miss graphically: the color seems an extension of the bag in the basket; the axis of the prosthesis coincides with the axis of the basket’s stay. I really thought her right leg must be out to the left preparing to dismount. Anyway, what makes this photo so special to me is the fluid connection between the subsets of human design and ingenuity. We augment our bodies in textiles and machines, mechanically concealing and gracing ourselves with protection and advantage over the earth and elements. And it’s hard in the information age particularly to tell where we stop and our tech starts. It’s a cliche of blurred lines often explored in allegory and fable. But I love that this photo explores those lines in color and line. Her vermillion dress is a part of her red bike. Her prosthetic leg is an extension of her chic purse. And of course the leg and bike collude to propel her with grace and efficiency inspite of her unique and common human handicaps. Clunky masculine mechanical fixes and colorful feminine grace. It’s a wonderful photo. And it’s getting a lot of attention.
The image above is by photographer Annabel Clark and featured in the NYTimes Lens piece, A Most Intimate Bond, about the conjoined twins, Carmen and Lupita Andrade. The photographs are stunning. The challenges of living presented in these otherwise quotidian incidents raise interesting design questions about alleviating the struggle of having two heads and chests and four arms.
Dear Ikea, I would be happy to one day do some ID work for you, but in the meantime, maybe I can offer some basic proofreading services. Feel free to contact me through the contact link below. Kind regards, SSS.
Ok, so I am SUPER late to the party on this one, but I just saw the Scope Outlast bottle in the store and was really taken aback. I got four words: gypsy cab air freshener. As reported in the Dieline in 2009, brand management at Scope and the designers at Webb deVlam wanted to ensure the bottle would not be relegated to under sink cabinet status for reasons of exposing the brand and encouraging routine use. All well and good, so they went with a jewel and perfume bottle inspired form to elevate status by form association. Ok, also well and good, particularly when you think that Scope makes your breath smell fresh. Ok, doing great, and then along comes the semiotic disruptor– blue liquid!!! Noooooooo!!! So here’s a question: what’s a blue or brightly colored liquid that comes in a jewel like bottle so it can be elevated to above the counter status when really it’s trash? Four words: gypsy cab air freshener.
Dear USA, I’m sorry to bring this up on your birthday, but you have been living out of the house for 235 years now, and it’s time to get your shit together. I love you and really want the best for you. But shit like this has to stop. It’s a ‘don’t tread on me’ kind of thing you know? No taxation without representation? Yeah well, throwing parties in your new place is cool, but inviting over a bunch of bullies who sell all your shit out the back to pay for beer and then making those of us who behaved ourselves pay to replace everything is not. We just wanted to meet girls. Have a good night and try not to burn down anymore forests tonight. It’s dry out there in the West these days. Much love, Citizen Sinclair.