Joanna Berzowska talking about XS labs, capacitive sensors and working with/building paper circuits.
So, who doesn't love to see an older man in a bomber jacket talking about the future. I haven't ever read any of his work, but this talk and his ability to project ideas into the future is pretty amazing.
I've been delving into contempory graphic design a little more and. have been coming up against people like Metahaven a bunch.
These guys are super interesting, and their work spans many mediums, from video to publication and image.
Honestly, I'm not certain that I will be able to keep this up everyday—I stupidly took on 20 credit hours this semester (who knows, maybe that will change in the future), but I want to try and keep going for now. So, brand attributes, here's what to look for:
- Visual brand language (CMF / geometries)
- Manufacturing methods
- Aesthetic descriptors (styling)
- Brand philosophy / reputation / culture
- Functionality (inc. ergonomics)
- Availability (presence for consumers)
- Corporate structure
- Product / service offerings
- Social / environmental responsibility
Looking forward to starting a project aiming to expand a product offering of a brand!
Starting work on a project for a graphic design class, and excited to be putting a book together for one of these two Adam Curtis films.
First day back! Well, I really wanted to try and improve my story crafting, so I was really excited to learn about this neat little way of looking at/organizing it:
What | So What | What Next
Really looking forward to putting some stuff together, and getting to the point where I'll be able to put this into practice!
I figured the start of a new school year was a good time to try and set some personal goals for myself and putting them out there might help me be somewhat more accountable, so here goes:
- Build out and run at least one Kickstarter campaign.
- Work on a previous school project, developing it to make it into a portfolio piece.
- Develop thermochromatic project and its supporting material to make it sharable online.
- Write daily, recording process or experiences, to preserve and acknowledge them.
- Learn some more about casting and try it with some cement and silicone.
During my Fellowship experience over the Summer, I started to become interested in the inner workings of companies and how design companies as entities evolve, adapt or die. This is particularly typified in the leadership of a company—where a design direction comes from a few significant people or a figure-head. The thought that kept coming to me was, what happen when that leadership leaves.
There are many companies where the legacy left by individuals seems to rule the company still—especially with legacy companies like Herman Miller where George Nelson changed the DNA of the company. The work created through his contacts and work with designers are what they still rely on for the vision of their brand as the leader of the mid-century modern style, even though most of their money comes through office furniture. I couldn't tell you exactly why the subject of a company moving from one center of power to another (or completely different style of governing) interests me, but it just seems like a moment in which so much can go wrong. I think it is also because there aren't really many other industries in the world which still work in this way—fashion for instance rotate heavily on design directors to avoid the type of fall which could come from a center of gravity for the company leaving. Take for example the most obvious recent example of Steve Jobs at Apple—I assume we will back on this moment in 70 years with less emphasis, but right now his death seemed to leave Apple stalling in the world of innovation in which they led the field for so long...
This ties pretty well into another example, where companies seem to work in one of two ways—family owned and publicly owned. I'm not sure what draws me to being interested in these two situations, but the differences seem pretty strong, and maybe its because I might end up working in one of these two environments so understanding them is helpful?As a heads up, I'm not focusing on any specific company here, in fact I'm going to make very broad statements which probably don't line up to any company at all. It is also worth noting that everyone who I have met whom work for these companies love them, regardless of what type of company they are, and their engagement with the products and designers is amazing. All of these people are proud of their companies, and proud of the design they produce.
It seems, working in a family-owned business you really have to be invested in the families ideals. I guess this is true of any leadership anywhere really, but with family leadership it feels like those are based on more emotional and individual traits. From what I have seen, there is also only so much room to grow into new roles or to move into leadership positions as they seem to have less ability to grow or adapt quickly, maybe due to capital. In a publicly owned company, it seems the design is led more by a business case, rather than being led specifically by expression and experimentation.
I guess all-in-all this is just something you get to understand once you see the other side of the industry and it is well more than likely that all of these thoughts and observations are seen through a pinhole of a tiny experience within companies in general, but it is something which we never talk about at school which probably has a huge effect on our careers.
Right, so I'm going to write about something a little weird and maybe a little personal, but I feel like most people go through it and that it makes sense to talk about it mostly. There's a bunch of people out there to speak to about professional development in the design industry, and I have done, but I'll admit that I'm still pretty lost as to what I want to do or even how successful I should be aiming to be.
I've always been fairly driven to be "successful", coming from a well-off middle-class background in England, and I'll be honest I'm no different now. In an incredibly naive way, I experience the desire in myself to be some kind of big deal designer but realize that that isn't likely. Being older and a student, the more time I spend in school, and experience the design world the more I find myself doubting the need for any kind of success as I might have defined it previously. By this I mean success as far as recognition through awards, or by other people. I find myself being drawn more to wanting to ensure that I am (and my family are) happy. Unfortunately this is a hugely vacillating feeling which goes from one end of the spectrum to the other, and I have yet to really understand what it is that I want or need.
I'm sure I'm not the only student (and definitely not the only mature student) to feel this way, but it is interesting to me, as the more designers I have encountered in the real world are working in jobs that I wouldn't want to be in. I discover many graduates in UX design (which is totally great, but it seems people are only there because of the number of jobs not the burning desire) or in those totally glamorous which are totally hidden.
Although I attend a state school, UIC, I would say that the class as a whole has been fairly successful, with students and faculty winning multiple awards. Maybe this is part of it—being in a fairly competitive environment which seems to reward certain types of achievement rather than the more artsy style of self-exploration... I'll never forget this huge stark contrast which happened this summer—speaking to two people who I hold in high regard at a conference, feeling some kind of strange fire in my belly‚ I told them I would be huge, that I would be more successful than them. Insert embarrassed emoji here. Looking back on it, it seems so dreadfully pompous and arrogant, but also so way off the mark. I want to do well and enjoy what I do everyday, but do I need to aim to make those around me covet my success? I definitely think not.
This was a piece of writing that my fellow Fellowship fellow and I were asked to contribute to Curbed magazine, exploring our experience and what advice it would lead us to offer students and young professionals. Below are the five points I wanted to write about, but they definitely aren't exhaustive when I look back at the experience.
Always be making
Like every profession, one has to work hard to succeed in design, but it is also true that most people catch a break in their career, too—and when that comes along, you can only take full advantage if you have enough projects to show. Spending time with Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat from WantedDesign allowed me to recognize the competitive nature of the industry, but also that the work that I produce represents me alone and that I can use my catalog of ideas and projects to make myself stand out. Your personality shows through the work that you create: use your unique voice and personality to produce projects which represent you, that make you proud, and demonstrate what you care about. Using this impetus to create more will improve core skills like designing with confidence, streamlining the process of production and iteration, understanding who you’re constructing ideas for and most importantly—will increase the amount of work you have, which demonstrates your ability to yourself and others.
Have real big ideas
One of the hardest things to do is to learn to balance dreaming big and weighing the practical concerns of a project—it’s a matter of perspective which can be difficult to keep when you become emotionally attached to an idea. To help you do this, you can think about what it is that you are designing, and ask whether it could actually be realized, or whether you could ever honestly make it? Answering this can be challenging when you’re designing something solely on paper or onscreen, so try to make prototypes early and often that move you closer and closer to the final objective. This thought is a reflection on the entire fellowship, in which we interacted almost exclusively with physical objects and the realities of manufacturing. Consider the truth that sometimes a simple non-electronic object, a small environmental change, or initiating an activity can substitute for a complex electronic device designed to solve a problem—and how as a student, a lo-fi solution may be more within your grasp. Focusing on designing things that are within your capacity to produce, allows you to take them closer to production and move them out into the real world to interact with people.
Using pride to your advantage
Since I completed the fellowship, I have tried to utilize my pride by measuring my work against professionals, and continuing to work on it until I feel comfortable placing it next to them. I encountered this while working on a Emeco 1006 Navy chair: feeling both honored to be working on a piece which would be sent to a customer, and afraid of ruining an iconic piece of furniture, I realized I should feel this way about my own pieces. Although working to this standard will take a lot more effort to get a project to this point, in the end the work will be better for it and I will believe in the piece that much more. Pride can be one of your greatest tools—it can help you to understand when you honestly believe you have completed projects and help drive you to take them further than you thought you could.
Be deliberate in your passion
At the end of the day, design comes down to business—whether it is the cost of development, sourcing of materials, location of manufacturing, method of sales, or promotion—money is always a factor. One of the most important things to learn about design is understanding how to look at your work rationally as well as emotionally. Alex, Charles and Theo at Rich Brilliant Willing really opened my eyes to this idea, and how for example, at the start of a project one should try and ballpark costs and rewards: how much time and effort is involved, and is the potential product competitive in the market through cost, and/or unique selling points, to make the project worth your investment? This thinking allowed them to move away from the furniture that they made, but realized was uncompetitive, and focus on the lighting with which they have become so successful. Learning to treat yourself as a business allows you to recognize what you get out of your invested time and effort, and it can help you understand how important a project actually is to you—whether it drives income as a product you sell, or whether it is a portfolio piece which helps you self-promote.
Experiment, test and play—have fun
It’s extremely important to never feel confined by what you’ve seen, experienced, or by what others around you are doing, design is an iterative process which is based on exploration and inquisition—its important never to be afraid of being playful in your process. Don’t feel too worried about “failing” its inevitable regardless of your anxiety; try to focus more on learning and adapting as you experience things, and use tools like notebooks and process diaries to retain as much of this learning as possible. As a young designer or small studio, one way to get yourself recognized is to work with new or emerging technologies or experiences—this levels the playing field between you and other companies somewhat, and can give you the chance to define new typologies. Flavor Paper typify this point, a company built on the far-out concept of scratch-and-sniff and more recently conductive wallpaper—they have never been afraid of chasing ideas which make them stand out. Our time with them helped me cement the idea that if you are working as a designer, hopefully you love it—what you do should be exciting and fun, what ever that means to you.
So back to school (for me) means back to rendering and working with some software which I haven't had the chance to touch a whole lot over the Summer. The good thing is, I have been watching a bunch of awesome videos which I'd love to share because they are so awesome and helpful. Over the Summer I tried to focus on improving my ability with Autodesk Fusion 360 and also Keyshot, so hopefully I can share some of the most helpful videos below and that can help some others out there.
Seriously—if you have time, just watch all of the Keyshot webinars, they all have something amazing in them and you learn so much so quickly!
So, post the Be Original Americas fellowship, I'll admit I was a bit like this...
But with nearly a month having passed, I feel totally ready to jump back into school and super excited to start using this space as a working journal of experiences, questions, and resources. I'm going to try over the next few days to continue to post in here, a mix of some things that I had as drafts from my summer experience—they'll be loose thoughts, and then some more solid things that I have been working on also.
So this is another thing which started out as a post I wanted to write a little while ago, and builds in ways off of yesterdays post. I've always been really interested in obsolescence as a feature of design, and the different ways that it plays with our products or interactions. There is of course the most obvious obsolescence, which is the object which ceases to function after an event—like a software update (or even a wrapper which is disposed once it is removed). The other type of obsolescence which I have come into contact more recently is cultural obsolescence.
So we could probably see this in object, like furniture or something, but it presented itself most starkly in textiles to me, where the industry is more closely aligned to the fashion industry. The interesting thing here is that all of the companies I visited work incredibly hard on being as environment positive as possible. Not only that, they also design textiles which should be able to last 20 year in space. Here's the funny thing though, most of the spaces these are going in are hospitality or corporate environments, and most of those hospitality spaces will be redeveloped every 5-10 years. We can design textiles which are better for the environment and could last extremely well, but fashion and a need to "refresh" an environment drives this work out.
This is obviously pretty interesting when contrasted with the world of "heritage" products. I have no idea how much longer the whole mid-century modern thing is going to be around for, but it's still going strong right now. The fabric designs, motifs and typologies of the furniture continue to stick around and it's really interesting how companies have been able to produce a prestige and revere for the history surrounding these products when we are so repulsed by the old in so many other situations.
I guess my question is, how do we codify long-term products nowadays, and what can we do to apply a broad set of cultural standards which might help redefine the need for the shortened life-span which so many of them have currently?
Ok, so I note ideas down when I have them, and scribble something of what I might want to talk explore. Sometimes I come back to those and think—what the hell was I thinking when I wrote that? This is one of those, but I want to try and publish the good and the bad, and to push myself to explore those weirder thoughts too.
So the note started with this little gem (who knows what I had been reading/listening to/thinking about):
Modernism was born of reaction to Victorianism and the First World War. What do I see when I look at design today and what is it responding to?
I think the general idea revolved around the fact that, having been exposed to the interiors industry, I was trying to think more critically about the world around myself. One thing which I have noticed about the interiors world is that it pays attention a lot to trend, and this may well be true of most design studios, but I think there is definitely a stronger emphasis in interiors. Textiles for example are very close to fashion, in the sense of being very much tied to the trends in material and color which are in vogue.
One thing I wanted to take from this experience, was the ability to recognize a little more what design might be reacting to, and trying to pay more attention to social and political changes and values which might drive aesthetic and functional needs and desires. One example is the movement from economy to gaudiness which we seem to be currently in the throws of, or the resurgence of color in products and the move away from minimalist color palettes. What I really want is to not accept style for what it looks like, but instead to seek the intent in it.
Ok—it's been a couple of days since I have written on here... its the end of this super awesome experience that I have been going through, but I have needed a couple of days off from everything to be honest to prepare for heading back to real life. The good news is that I still have the itch for writing, and I'm going to try and keep this up as long as I can.
I remember asking my professor in a history of design class what the big deal with chairs was.., We were studying the history of design from the early 1800s through to the early 2000s over two semesters, and chairs were artifacts that came up so consistently I just wasn't sure if it was his biases or something that designers do. My memory got jogged about this when I visited the Schaudepot. A collection of "400 of the most iconic pieces of furniture", and 95% of them are chairs. I asked the curator who was giving us a tour, and she responded that there may well be two reasons (these echoed my professors views also), that chairs are a basic article which people desire and need, and that because of the governing principles behind them the core components of them haven't changed over time.
That was one of the most awesome things about going to the Schaudepot, seeing the evolution of chairs—somewhat mimicking the evolution of human industry and culture. As new materials and processes are discovered, they are fairly quickly represented in chairs to either drive function or cost. At the same time, as cultural tastes adapt form and composition of chairs change and even the fundamentals of design (like form vs. function) are questioned through movements like post-modernism.
I guess I'm not 100% why they are so important to us—I mean, honestly, not every chair out there is a statement or an exploration of the tenants of design—but they definitely act as an interesting way for us to view designs relationship with society and culture.