I wanted to spend some time thinking about how my conception of originality might have changed throughout this experience. It occurred to me a good way to do this might be to look at part of the essay I submitted to get the Be Original Americas Fellowship, and compare that to how I currently feel—just so you know, how I currently feel is in flux and a little jumbled, so it's a whole less coherent.
What is your favorite design and why? What does original design mean to you? What do you see as the future of original design?
As a favorite design, the Mezzadro Stool by the Castiglioni brothers always springs to my mind, precisely because it is so original. It evokes the moment in which it was conceived—it seems so incredibly spontaneous. This is an object that could sit comfortably amongst great furniture designs of the decades following right up until contemporary design. It is imbibed with the culture and period of experimentation and form-driven design it comes from, and represents a perfect freeze-frame of that moment in design history, but importantly, is not wedded to the style of that era. The simplicity of the form lays bare the essentials of the stool: its construction is so well considered, it is almost sculptural, and its stark materiality allows it to stand out as something purely industrial. Although originally constructed from found objects and forms—and against the contemporary trend at the time of exploring plastics and new materials—the inspiration of the composition, lightness, and joy it creates is truly inspirational, and even in its mass production form, it still retains its honesty.
With the Mezzadro Stool in mind, original design means many different things to me, but at my core I experience two things: observing original design and creating original design. Seeing another designer’s original design is incredibly exciting. It's a complex feeling because it involves so many emotions—a desire to understand and explore, and an immediate emotional connection with the designer. I cannot help but try to feel the moment of conception or understanding from the designer’s point of view; the path to originality is long, but the moment is a beautiful and bright spark. I have felt moments of originality in my design career already, and I can only explain them as some of the most exciting and rewarding moments, in which the combination of form, material and insight can produce something personal and universal at the same time.
Original design demands intense study. It requires the patience and curiosity that it takes to observe and define a problem or area of opportunity. This insight is influenced by an individual designer’s personality and experience, and is spurred by a desire to explore and solve it. Through this “solution” and exploration, the designer is able to express his or her craft and identity. Original design is the only true form of design, and it is the only form that allows designers to reveal themselves to others. It’s the craft of process and experience, but most importantly, the need to create and communicate in one’s own voice. That is why truly original design can transcend cultures and times; it’s like a great poem, in that it is able to evoke an emotional connection with everyone while being honestly representative of its author.
Instead of attempting to predict the future, I find it easier to explain what I think, feel, and hope. I think that the increased access to information provides us in the design community with the great ability (and responsibility) to continue the mission of educating each other, manufacturers, and consumers in the benefits of quality and original design. Never before have we had access to more people, and had the ability to demonstrate the value in the core ideals of a craft that relies on honesty and ingenuity. We have the tools available to truly inform everyone about their purchases and the effect that their decisions have on cultural development. I feel that consumers’ belief and trust in the notion of quality when it comes to design is shifting, and that by continuing to strongly advocate for these values and ensure they are upheld, consumers will come to hold these ideas more dearly as they are ingrained in the mainstream. The rise of crowd-funding and craftsperson e-commerce is symptomatic of communities searching for originality. I hope that as a community of humankind, everyone involved with the product lifecycle continues to react to looming environmental concerns, and that this continues to attract people to quality products designed to last and not to destroy our environment. It is my final hope that these concerns continue to drive innovation, creativity, and originality in design aimed at bettering our world.
Original design exists in many forms, it is not confined to the sculpting of a body into "new" architecture, it can be the fruit of many labors: material study, manufacturing study, process study.
This leads me to think that original design isn't dependent on shattering typologies, but instead rests on an intent or desire to investigate a relationship between a study and an outcome.
Although this places a strong emphasis on the designers relationship to the outcome, I believe that original design isn't about ego (in fact those designs which break and create typologies often eclipse brands and individuals and become a part of collective consciousness); therefore it is the job of the designer to use their ability to ensure that they edit pure expression of material and form, to create something which is accessible. These artifacts must walk the tightrope between personal (emotional) and accessible (passive).
Original design strikes a balance between extravagance and rationality, holistic nature and details, tradition and deviation.
Authenticity and originality are symbiotic, and cannot exist without each other.
I don't believe that original design has to equate with profitability. An article designed to be sold in high quantity is likely to be more palatable to a higher percentage of people. Outstanding and original design may well be so insightful that it is rejected by society.
Original design will always be original, but will not always be in fashion.
Most importantly, originality is in the eye of the beholder. This is why one of the most important things we can do is continue to discuss it, in the hope that this can lead to a heightened awareness of its financial, ethical, environmental, economical and cultural importance.