Now is the opportunity for designers to use the power of design, not just to improve lifestyles but also to practice design in a way that balances social and environmental interests.
From an excellent post by Brian Ling suggesting design freedom + designer responsibility. He makes a strong point with the following from Victor Papanek’s Design For The Real World —
There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them. And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today. Industrial design, by concocting the tawdry idiocies hawked by advertisers, comes a close second. Never before in history have grown men sat down and seriously designed electric hairbrushes, rhinestone-covered file boxes, and mink carpeting for bathrooms, and then drawn up elaborate plans to make and sell these gadgets to millions of people. Before (in the ‘good old days’), if a person liked killing people, he had to become a general, purchase a coal-mine, or else study nuclear physics. Today, industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis. By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim nearly one million people around the world each year, by creating whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed. And the skills needed in these activities are taught carefully to young people.
In an age of mass production when everything must be planned and designed, design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environments (and, by extension, society and himself). This demands high social and moral responsibility from the designer. It also demands greater understanding of the people by those who practise design and more insight into the design process by the public.
The year was 1997. I’d blame it on youth. I have a vague recollection of being a frustrated Industrial Designer – evangelistic, passionate and vocal – struggling to make my Indian clients see the light. Internet was still in its early days and Industrial Design wasn’t even a notion. The following article found its way into a glossy that nobody read – they just bought an odd copy to display on coffee tables for status value. Let me know what you think.
“It is never too early to employ design – almost always too late. Design should be used to create the spark and not to fight the fire. It is also important for designers today to recognize that people are now more educated about design and quality.”
Designing for Yesterday (1997)
( A tossed salad of roles, experiences, ethics and goals.) “… for them that can think with the heart!”
Client:“… so that’s settled then. We hope you can work out something that’s really different and looks like a SONY …”
Designer:( looking slightly puzzled) “Sure! But you haven’t yet told me when you want all this.”
Client:(smiling) “YESTERDAY, of course ..!!”
When you first hear something like this, you can be quite amused. It’s funny! But somewhere underneath, it’s very profound. It reflects a culture – a particular way of wanting things to happen.
We always seem in a hurry of the tearing variety. Design time is invariably difficult to accommodate due to “market pressures”. Or because design came as an afterthought. Therefore, YESTERDAY ?!!
It’s like saying that it should not matter much whether the salt is in the dish or consumed separately while eating.
Many “packaged” collaborations have been observed to “pick” product models that are already obsolete in their countries of origin. Their moulds are cheaper (read — free to the seller) and the Indian consumer will still be delighted with the “new” option (read — has no choice).
Therefore YESTERDAY ?!! It’s like going to a mediocre hotel to eat stale food at prevailing five-star prices. Continue reading “Designing for ‘Yesterday’”
World Trade Centre, Rotterdam, 25th September 2009. Indo-Dutch collaboration summit focused on Industrial Design. Hmmm … (Design Crossover).
Why they invited me to speak is still somewhat of a mystery considering I dropped off the Industrial Design radar towards the end of the last millennium. I guess it could’ve been because my company, Ideafarms, has been able to maintain a growing relationship between India and Europe over the last 8 years through projects and partnerships with Dutch and German corporations.
I’ve never been a champion of networking – I’ve actually often criticised some of my friends for using networking to get ahead – but am quite overwhelmed having been in the midst of some of the most ‘conscious’ designers of today. Jeroen Raijmakers of Philips and Jos Oberdorf of NPK Design are inspiring to say the least. I’m grateful to Ruchita Puri for the opportunity to meet them at the event.
From whatever was presented, it looks like good design can be really good business. There’s a case to be made out for a design collaboration without borders. Couple of good reasons here …
1. European design reflects high quality, the idiom being minimalistic and functional. Whereas India’s design sensibilities are more embellished. Their combination will raise the aesthetic appeal without compromising design values.
2. Pure economic tenets come into play when we see the sheer number of people both on the supply side (design talent is plenty in India) and the demand side (India is emerging as one of the largest markets). Leveraging the ‘great Indian talent pool’ is an opportunity.
3. The life sensibilities of India’s cultural make-up have always been in the mould of sustainability, something the world has woken up to only recently. Add to this the rich craft-based traditions and you have a universal design paradigm that’s as powerful as Buddhism.
Jump into this conversation folks. You don’t want to be left out. Really!