Sunday, November 30, 2008

Definition of Industrial Design

Looking back at what I’ve researched and written this semester, I realized that this blog was an opportunity for me to study myself in ID. When I had a talk with Nancy, I was able to sum up this semesters’ work with her and she noticed things that I did not notice while writing and posting. Some things that seem obvious to me and unnoticeable can be interesting or questionable to others. What I have discussed on the blog somehow represented things that I was interested in about Industrial design. This class was good to know about other aspects of industrial design. ID can be strictly based on marketability, sustainability, look, or concept.

In the beginning of the semester, I have discussed about designs that reuse obsolete or broken objects. They were not mass-produced and needed more time and effort to make. However those renewed objects gained new means of life and there was an effort of designers to reduce waste and re-think about what objects can do. I also discussed about human interaction with light. I was fascinated by how designs can manipulate the users’ interactions with the objects and how the users can participate in the way of using objects. Industrial designers have been thoughtful of the user interface. There are traditional ways of interaction and there are more unconventional ways of interaction that can grab the user’s attention and interest. However, even though I am interested in more of unique and unconventional designs, I don’t mean that I do not care about manufacturability or marketability. I am also very fascinated by the Danish functionalism that strips all the ornamental elements until the design only represents the function of the object. They are still mass-produced and loved by a big community of people who may be design-oriented and who may not. So in my chair studio, I’m struggling between the function of the chair and the concept of the chair. There are a lot of conceptual chairs in the world that have gained the attention of the media and press because of its concepts and wits. Some designers have taken the chairs to another level and did not consider them just as a piece of furniture. However, conceptual chairs risk being dysfunctional and uncomfortable causing controversies.

Last class, there was a controversial topic about conceptual design versus functionalistic design. Some argue that Campana brothers’ banquete chair and sushi chair and Droog’s rag chair are unproductive and too conceptual. Some people may argue that they are too crafty and too one-of-a-kind to be industrial design. It’s like a trend where they may be fun for a while but they are neither mass producible nor wanted by a lot of users. Also their users are very limiting because they are sometimes too expensive to afford and not comfortable. Some people think the most important aspect of a chair is comfort and manufacturability and others think a concept of a chair. I was struggling in the middle as well, because I think both are important, and it is hard to focus on both and trying to achieve everything is hard and overwhelming. It was good to see people with different opinions in class all standing up for their belief of what ID is.

So while I was looking for the definition of ID, I found an article by Gadi Amit. Gadi Amit from NewDealDesign wrote an article called “Definition of Industrial Design?” and he argues that the perception of Industrial Design is being marginalized by two approaches: Innovation and Art. Innovational design is products that are pro-business and added with new technology. IDSA website sites that “industrial Design is the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” On the other hand, “art” aspect of Industrial design is a kind of design work that we see in the media and in design exhibitions; a personal expression and discovery of new visuals and experiences.

Gadi also asserts that the definition of Industrial Design is vague and controversial and ID is one of the least understood professions in corporate America. He claims that “even within the ID community there exists no strong, crystallized definition.” He also claims that we need a third definition that “moves us away from a polarized innovation-or-gallery message; a third alternative to ensure that the complexity and beauty of our profession doesn’t boil down to just a ‘business-case’ or a ‘visual expression’” I agree with his statement because since ID embraces so many different aspects and fields of design that I easily get confused while I design in this major. So what can we do to prevent this confusion and argument over what ID really is?

Gadi appeals that the formal, visual, aesthetic, and conceptual elements are key tools but not goals of industrial design. Also he says that ID is not always about innovation or the most advanced or progressive ideas. He laments on how many design programs in schools place a lot of emphasis on the creation of a personal voice, which can lead to a catastrophic end-particularly at the start of a career. Thus many have no feasibility, manufacturing process or materials.

ID is so multi-faceted that it is easy to get lost while designing. Industrial designers have lots to consider such as form, function, desirability, manufacturability, affordability, cultural reference, and so on. ID is a synthesis of the visual, emotional, functional and cultural. Or, ID is simply “Design that is Industrial”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Art & Design? vs. Art or Design?

I’m currently in the chair studio and I’m working on a project on making a soft chair. Since my last chair project was based strictly on manufacturability and was trying to fit safely in the category of “chair” rather than exploring the possibility of what a chair can be and what it can do, I’ve decided to do something environmentally friendly with not-so-usual design. Through brainstorming, I thought maybe using unwanted and discarded articles of clothes would be a good substitute for immense amount of foam and battings that are needed for a traditionally upholstered chair. And also this idea reflects my bad habit of piling clothes on my chairs. Usually what happens is that I sometimes just sit on my chair without removing clothes on top of it. I’ve always in some way liked this feeling of sitting and lying on a pile of clothes. For example, I remember falling asleep in my closet when I was little, stumping all over the clothes, and I actually celebrated my own birthday in my closet.

However, this one problem kept stopping me from going further with my idea; “what if my chair turns out to be too crafty or too one-of-a-kind?” Even though I wanted to design that wasn’t so traditionally upholstered, I wanted something still soft and comfortable to sit on. Also, I wanted unusual design and function but I also wanted manufacturability with various users. So then I researched some designers who managed to push boundaries of what a chair can be and drew attention of media and press by their innovativeness and cleverness of their design.

This is Droog’s “Rag chair” by Tejo Remy. The chair is layered from the contents of 15 bags of rags. It arrives ready-made but the users have the option to recycle their own discarded clothes to be included in the design. Each piece is unique, but it can also become a treasured chest of memories.

“Habit Forming” chairs are designed by Lunar Design and they won the red dot ward of design concept 2007. Habit forming is a collection of chair concepts that explores the idea of what is a good or bad habit. Each concept embraces the habit of piling clothes on chair or trying to keep unwanted things (like pets) off chairs. The concepts challenge the way we view the typical function of a chair. Habit Forming chairs celebrate and playfully interact with those habits of piling clothes on chair rather than change those habits. Hampered Seating chair does not function unless it is filled with clothes. But as soon as it becomes comfortable to sit on, it reminds the user to do the laundry soon. Clothes Hanger’s shape imitates a chair silhouette, however, it is not for sitting. This design transforms formerly “bad” habit into the only function of the chair. These chairs allude to their conventional function but they reflect the designers’ inspiration of bad habit or unwanted and unexpected result.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Biomimicry: A key to the planet's future energy?

A small Australian company called BioPower experiments tidal power and wave power technologies in Bass Strait using "biomimicry" based design principles.

The project has 2 prototype units being deployed-the wave power system will be off King Island and the tidal power one off Flinders Island. Each unit can produce up to 250 kilowatts. The $10.3 million system is half funded by the Australian Government and the electricity generated will be used by Hydro Tasmania.

The field of biomimicry is a new one that has gathered increasing amount of attention in recent years, with advocates promoting these types of designs as being efficient way to harness natural resources and to use them in a sustainable way.

BioPower Systems' wave power device (Biowave) mimics the swaying motion of the sea plants found in the ocean floor. The system consists of three floating blades which are constantly osciallated by the motion of the sea, generating electricity as they do so. The flexibility of the blades enables them to deal with heavy seas without breaking, unlike more rigid designs.

BioPower's tidal power system (Biostream) is based on highly efficient propulsion of "thunniform" swimming species, such as sharks, tuna, and mackerel. The device mimics the shape and motion characteristics of these species, as a fixed device in a moving stream of water. Due to the single point of rotation, this device can align with the flow in any direction.

Biomimicry ( from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a relatively new science that studies the designs nature that has evolved through millions of years of trial and error and then imitates these to solve human problems in a sustainable way. The idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Nature has found what works and appropriate, and most importantly, what lasts here on Earth. After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils and what surrounds us is the secret to survival. The conscious emulation of life' genius is a survival strategy for the human race, a path to a sustainable future. The more our world looks and functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours, but not ours alone.

The term "biomimicry" was introduced by science writer Janine Benyus in her book "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by nature". The most frequently cited example of biomimicry is Velcro, which was inspired by the way burrs stick to fur. Janine Benyus is also a president of the Biomimicry Institute which is a non-profit organization. The Biomimicry Institute's mission it to nurture and grow a global community of people who are learning from, emulating, and conserving life's genius to create a healthier, more sustainable planet. Benyus argues that biomimicry differs from other bio-approaches such as bio-utilization and other bio-assisted technologies. Biomimicry introduces an era based not on what we can extract from organisms and their ecosystems, but on what we can learn from them. Bio-utilization entails harvesting product or producer such as cutting wood for floors and bio assisted technologies involve domesticating an organism to accomplish a function, e.g., bacterial purification of water. However, instead of harvesting, biomimics consult organisms; they are inpired by an idea, be it a physical blueprint, a process step in a chemical reaction, or an ecosystem principle such as nutrient cycling. Borrowing an idea is like copying a picture-the original image can remain to inspire others.

Here's a talk by Kenny Ausubel, Bioneers Founder & Co-Executive Director and Jay Harman, Pax Scientific CEO. (This movie clip contains a very beautiful visual illustrations of nature and it's common shape that's underlying the nature's chaos.)

How would nature do it?

In 3.8 billion years, life has learned some amazing things: to fly, to live at the top of the mountain and bottom of the ocean, to light up the night, and to make miraculous materials such as skin, hair, horns, and brains. In fact organisms have done everything that we human want to do without guzzling the fossil fuels and polluting the planet or mortgaging our future. We are part of the nature but we are very young species. We can solve problems that we face by asking a disarmingly simple question: "How would nature do it?"

The level of green house gases in the atmosphere has already exceeded levels not expected for another decade. Much of the damage we are causing to our Earth and most of the greatly accelerated global warming is a result of our fuel use and understanding of energy. From the nature's point of view, there is no shortage of energy. if we study and copy nature's strategies for using energy, we can convert the world's escalating energy crisis. We can reduce the tremendous amount of energy in the industry by application of biomimicry.

And here's Jenine Benyus talk at TED

We used to think that the Sun rotated around the Earth, and that the world was flat. What other great truths are we still missing?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Industrial Design and Humanitarian Relief

First of all, the lecture on Monday made me really think about what a convenient world I was living in. I have lost the sense of appreciation towards water, food, and shelter that we think of so obvious but others don’t. I became very conscious of using water and every time I turned a faucet on, I thought about the lecture.

We are exposed to media all the time. We know the newest trends in fashion or the latest celebrity gossips. I’m surprised by how our attention is easily swayed by media such as Internet, televisions, magazines, and advertisements. However, most of us are ignorant of what is going in the third world countries where the attention is mostly needed. To be honest, I, myself, try to be attentive, but frankly, I don’t know a lot about natural disasters, wars, and consequent life of refugees either.

These problems are so big and vague that we as students who live in a convenient world it is hard to understand or connect with them. We can vaguely guess what the refugees are going though and what they need, but since our lives are so distant from theirs that it is hard to realize and embody the big problems and feel them as though they are ours. Also, the problems can be seen as overwhelming. As much as I want to be involved and use my power to release their anxiety, it could be overwhelming information to take in all at once.

Also, as Dr. Becker also mentioned, preliminary assessments are not done properly, and sometimes help is given in a disorganized, inefficient, and poorly monitored way. Enthusiastic donors donate products that are not really needed there. This was also evident in the “Design that Matters” lecture. For instance, incubators were donated to the third world countries hospitals; however, the cost of owning one was too expensive for them. Also some of the incubators were just stored but not used because instructions were written in French and they didn’t know how to operate the incubators. Small mistakes like this can be easily fixed or considered. When donating things like an incubator, one must consider about the cost of owning one, and the cost of fixing it and maintaining it, and how to utilize it.

Even though it seems hard to really relate ourselves to the refugees in the third world countries, we should at least attempt to pay more attention. We can read about articles or news of what happened and the help that is wanted in the other countries. Moreover, people can start attend lectures and meet people who have witnessed and experienced disasters and met people who really need others’ attention and care. This is only a starting point for everyone, and there are so much more potential opportunities to learn and help others and connect with people who need help.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

history of engagement rings and its' meanings

Today, almost everyone’s interpretation of the engagement ring is “ A symbol of ever lasting purity, love, devotion and commitment between two people”. One can assume that the endless circle of a ring shows the eternal nature of the bond, but where did it all start?

Engagement ring is a symbol of love and marriage. It also symbolizes the belonging: belonging of the ring donor and the ring receiver. In the Western culture, men usually give the engagement ring to his potential wife. By taking this ring and wearing it, women have accepted the proposal, and they are bound to commit to the relationship. The act of wearing this ring is not only accepting the love of her partner but also it is committing to the relationship, and letting others know that she belongs to someone.

In Western tradition, an engagement ring is a ring worn by a woman indicating her engagement to be married. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, it is worn on the left-hand fourth finger (even called a “ring finger”), while in other countries, such as Poland and Ukraine, it is customary for the ring to be worn on the right-hand. An engagement ring represents a formal agreement to future marriage.

In Egypt, Brazil and many European countries, both the man and the woman usually wear engagement rings, most often in the form of matching plain bands of white, yellow, or rose gold. In these countries, the man’s engagement ring often also eventually serves as the wedding ring. Some men wear wristwatch for the man after accepting a marriage proposal.

The earliest uses of symbolic rings are attributed to different peoples, including the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Betrothal rings were meant to symbolize a woman’s connection to the man who would become her husband, though the arrangement was more of a business proposition than a romantic union. Romans used iron rings to symbolize strength and permanence, and the Greeks are credited with the initial idea to wear the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, where the “vena amoris” or vein of love was supposed to connect to the heart.

Vena amoris is a Latin name meaning, literally, “vein of love”. Traditional belief established that this vein ran directly from the heart to the fourth finger of the left hand. This theory has been cited in western cultures as one of the reasons the engagement ring and/or wedding ring was placed on the fourth finger, or “ring finger”.

Established engagement ring history has theorized that the first rings may have been made from leather, plants, bone, ivory or other degradable material that served not only to symbolize a union between two people, but also their connection with the land that sustained them. As time passed, metal rings eventually became more elaborate, finally incorporating gemstones to add a measure of distinction and beauty. Symbolic patterns of birthstones were often used to illustrate the couple, parents as well as the couple themselves. For centuries, however, diamonds were too rare and expensive to be widely available and affordable.

Because diamond is the hardest and strongest mineral on earth it was seen to resist fire and steel and thus symbolize the unbending union of a man and woman in marriage. However, it was only commonplace for the wealthy people to give a diamond engagement ring before 18th century. Diamonds became more readily available when diamonds were discovered in Borneo and Brazil during 18th century. However, these were not sufficient to meet the ever-increasing demand for diamonds. In 1870, the discovery of diamonds near the Orange River in South Africa sparked the world’s biggest diamond rush, and helped to satisfy the world’s increasing appetite for diamonds.

Despite the varied nature of wedding and engagement ring history, today’s trends are clear: custom rings unique to the couple are more popular than ever, as are contemporary styles that illustrate the promise of a future that is brighter than ever. Even as diamond jewelry continues to evolve, its ties to historical tradition remain intact, and couples continue to honor that history by exchanging rings as they form their own traditions.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

History of recycled objects, lighting, and chairs

We were asked to research about objects, materials, or processes that related with passed/ past. I interpreted this assignment as researching objects that re-live second lives successfully. The objects that I collected for this assignment were manufactured, used, thrown away, rejected, and transformed into something new. In my opinion, this act of recycling is bringing something from the past to present, and not only does this save the earth, but also, it reflects people's tendency of wanting to stay in the past. The first two examples are the furniture made out of old bikes. Use of innovative material allows the form of the furniture to be interesting and unique. The table top lighting is made out of old Vespa that used to roam around Europe. By introducing this form language of motorcycle to table top lighting, it established a queer but friendly look. Also Ipods are cheaper and easier to buy a new one than to try to fix it. However, someone figured out how to reuse it as an external hard drive. (and the gum packaging is an option). It's a humorous way of reusing products that can no longer function. My last example is cassette tapes that used to be mass produced before. This enormous amount of plastic products became obsolete and were no longer needed by people. Even though these cassettes are not doing anything but displaying their looks, this is one of the million ways of reducing plastic waste.
Invention of a light bulb has changed our daily lives, and has affected humanity greatly. Ever since the light bulb was invented, people including designers have tried various different ways to use this invention effectively. One of the ways to develop this invention is to invent different ways to interact with it. First of all, there is a conventional way of turning light on and off: light switch. However, this limited the lighting to only two levels of light; either on or off. That was when dimmer was invented. Dimmer allowed the users to adjust the right amount of light. Also, to eliminate the inconvenience of always having to walk to the light switch, Clapper was invented. This allowed the users to control the light without having to touch the light switch at all. Wherever you were in the room, you were in control of the lighting. Also, there are more artistic ways of approaching this issue. Some designers designed lighting evoking users to interact with the lighting differently and in unusual ways. Those designs make interaction with the lighting extra joyful and interesting then mundane and meaningless.

Functionalism was a movement in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Functionalists advocated, “architecture should be stripped of all ornamentation so as to allow its structure to express its function or purpose.” Danish functionalism derived from the German Bauhaus Movement, yet much more long lived than Bauhaus.

Late 19th century, the first industrial design trends appeared in Europe and the United States. In Germany, the Bauhaus school was established in 1919, combining art and technology with functionality and a simple idiom. Danish industrial designers were inspired by Bauhaus and their definition of functionalism. Therefore, the Danish post-war furniture during 1940’s and 1950’s valued these three characters: focus on the user, respect of materials, and attention to details. However, Danish design differentiated its functionalism from Bauhaus’; Danish functionalism is “Organic” which was very different from the often strict and dogmatic idiom of Bauhaus.

The rallying cry behind Danish designs in the 1940s and '50s continued to be "form follows function." Danish designers elevated the concept of functionalism to a new level, basing their designs wholly on the human body, and all its infinite needs and variations. "A chair is only finished when someone sits in it," said Wegner, summing up the era's design ethic with his signature simplicity.

The timeless allure of Danish design has ensured its enduring success. Danish furniture, from Jacobsen's stylishly simple chairs to Wegner's rounded, organic furniture is still displayed in design showrooms across the globe as the picture of modernity.