Over the past twelve weeks, there has been great exploration in a short amount of time. I have gained an understanding for wider design practices previously unknown to me while my perceptions on what was known has changed and grown. Most importantly, existing ambitions and anticipated directions have veered slightly astray and led to new and exciting design exploration. Preparation for the unit began prior to course, beginning with an impromptu visit to 100% Design at London Design Week, where I watched a collection of panels where designers spoke, the most memorable being The Forum where Nick Finney of NB Studios, unapologetically remarked that ‘assumption was the method of all f*** ups' (Finney. N, 2016). Inspired by his raw approach, I decided I couldn’t enter the course with a bullet-pointed plan of what I wanted to do on it. I had to be open-minded, utilize the skills I had already acquired and be prepared to learn more.
Contextualising Design Practice focused on the exploration of a series of design agendas: Some familiar, some alien. As tempting as it was to delve into a completely new design path, my instinct and prior interest in environmental and ecological design seemed unavoidable. In my design, I stand by three C’s: compassion, consciousness and creativity. Conscious relates to environmental awareness of the unsustainable path, we as a species, have chosen to take. I have a firm belief that we can fix the mess we created and obtain the power to transform our reality into a much more optimistic one. Rather than solely exploiting already acquired knowledge, I researched from a fairly novice perspective to discover the unexplored realms of green design.
Two of the most influential books I discovered in the research stage were Papanek’s Design for the Real World and McDonough and Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle. As a product designer, Papanek’s raw text made me feel incredibly uncomfortable as he proposes that we create new issues rather than resolving existing ones while draining the very few resources we have left. Although Papanek gives a seemingly never-ending list of the dystopia we have created for ourselves, he also places a lot of hope in the responsible designers of the future stating: 'design for the people's needs rather than their wants, or artificially created wants, is the only meaningful decision now' (Papanek, V. 1985). Papanek holds hope in ‘responsible designers’ (Papanek, V. 1985) explaining that although we play a huge role in the ecological crisis, we are the only hope. Designers 'will be forced to do so by the simple desire for survival within the not so distant future’ (Papanek, V. 1985). Pessimistic as it sounds, admitting fault rather than shying away from the issue will lead us on a more hopeful and optimistic path.
On the other hand, C2C instils an aroma of shame for the reader and paints a rather hopeless future because of the inconvenient truth of our thoughtlessness. Though presented cynically, I found the philosophy quite ground-breaking as a new interpretation of biomimicry, another design agendas of interest. I view C2C as a lifecycle, an ecosystem and a closed-loop way of life. Solutions like recycling, try to fix our mistakes in the very mindset we had to create them; the concept of recycling is not a solution but rather a façade. The issue lies within our linear way of living in this throwaway society, explaining why recycling is often viewed as movement towards a more desirable close-loop system. However, recycling is not closed, but rather open-looped, using just as much energy, resources and power to extend a products lifecycle in a way in which it was never designed to. Only when we look closer do we see when we stretch an open loop, it is inevitably, linear.
We must eliminate the grave position by designing as nature does and creating no real waste. Michael Pawlyn describes the abundance in nature and labels it as ‘a great opportunist’ (Pawlyn, M. 2011) referring to the autoplastically of nature and how it utilizes all unexploited resources. We have chosen to evolve alloplastically, transforming the earth for our desires, forcing our ecosystem to be linear when it is naturally closed loop. We are employing a cradle to grave life cycle for products, with the grave being waste, but maybe we need a re-think. Maybe we first need to understand how to interpret waste and how we can change that initial perception to an optimistic, more opportunistic way of thinking. Pawlyn says there are two ways of reading waste: ‘worthless’ (Pawlyn, M. 2011) or merely ‘a lost opportunity’ (Pawlyn, M. 2011) therefore designers must see the possibilities when no one else can. The approach of C2C creates a sense of utter hopelessness makings readers question “why bother?”. This pessimistic approach is, ironically, unsustainable and needs to be replaced with a hopeful one that empathises with the user and introduces emotional understanding. If we care we must to do something, make a change and create an impact, whether it be educational or to inspire others to act differently.
Visiting Eindhoven for Dutch Design Week allowed me to delve into a different culture’s interpretation of green design, and to my surprise, ethics. The Veganism exhibition showcased ‘a visionary look to a future where no exploitation of animals is allowed’ (Ddw.nl, 2016). I never considered applying my Veganism wholly into my design as I have with environmental consciousness. Yet, for my design to be genuine and reflect the practices I preach in everyday life, these same ethics should flow through my design and encourage change. If I am a part of something and care about it, I must be willing to do something
I have been told I have a recurring theme of care, empathy and emotion, which lead to exploration explore a third agenda previously unheard of: critical design. Critical design described as more of an attitude and ‘many people doing this who have never heard of the term critical design and who have their own way of describing what they do.’ (Dunne and Raby, 2016). Looking back at my older blogs, I explain ‘design is as much critical thinking as any other subject…not only to think outside the box but, take apart and re-create the box to find more opportunities within it’ suggesting I was thinking about this agenda before I knew of it’s true meaning.
Critical design was the leading design agenda for our collaborative project with Najla Alrumaihi and Phoebe Kowalska in our challenge to create the adult toy. We questioned why adults have games but children have toys and how the term ‘adult toy’ gained a sexual connotation. We believed our society had deemed what is acceptable and established the norm for us and we needed to challenge this preconception. Dunne and Raby address that we 'must not just visualise a better world but arouse in the public the desire for one' (Dunne.A, 2005). The word arouse relates to the word evoke and stimulating emotion and has been described as awaking someone from a sleep. Metaphorically speaking, we need to be awoken from our blissful, unaware slumber and understand the urgent need for change in the world. We can no longer live 'following-the-leader' because the leader is misinformed or in denial. As Dunne says, we are need for 'a product intended to challenge preconceptions' (Dunne.A, 2005). I believe we cannot successfully design for change whilst unaware of the product psychology what drives people stick to their instincts. We must consider 'more complicated and difficult aspects of our relationship to [insert product here] to be reflected in future designs' (Dunne.A, 2016). Hertizan Tales fills this gap with 'electrical objects' however I feel this mantra is suited for all aspects of design and especially ecological and environmentally-drive ones.
Most critical design interpretations we discovered depicted a dystopia, which did not replicate our joyful desire for our toy. We intentionally wanted to create an impact that stimulated a euphoric result. To achieve this, we created four credentials for our toy: simplicity, natural, joy and ‘guilt-free’ keeping the label adult toy to challenge the stereotype and stigma connected to it.
Two credentials I feel were influenced by my initial design agendas were natural relating to both ecological design and biomimicry and guilt-free inspired by my interpretation of the critical design element. We wanted to make a product entirely from wood and colour with natural dyes and finishes so that it had no grave and could go back into the earth as nature has intended for all things, echoing the interpretation I had discovered within biomimicry, thus making the product a part of environmental and ecological design. Unintentionally, the aesthetically element of biomimicry would also go on to inspired the design of our Totem spinner with natural geometry such as Fibonacci’s spiral.
I researched further into different interpretations of pleasure and learnt it is purely subjective to the individual, meaning that we would need to design a toy that can be used, explored and played in whatever way the user interpreted it to be so. Since pleasure is subjective, our product had to be objective. Adults have grown up with preconceived perceptions of the world and believe everything has a single necessary function, but children do not limit themselves in the way. After taking the time to play and interact with simple toys we found ourselves not only playing with the pieces individually, but experiencing a correlating feeling of personal achievement from building with them and wanted to further than feeling of achievement by adding the spinning top element so that adults could challenge themselves, finding right combinations to create their perfect spin. By providing a collection of carefully considered sensory components, it offers a host of different ways to play with Totem allowing more opportunity for subjective pleasure.
Seeing examples such as Martens and Visser’s Reflecting HOLON in DDW, we discovered how creations come to life when there is movement. With traditional wooden games and toys, as seen in Figure 14, inspiring our pieces by adding the element of the well-loved spinning top as the centre-piece, it provides the user with the opportunity to experience another dimension to their toy. We found an element in satisfaction in seeing the design spin as it represented process as seen in the steps taken to collect, build and spin Totem to experience full sensory integration.
Upon creating the first version of the Totem model, it’s aesthetics were suggested to mimic those seen in Russian Constructivism which focuses on ‘replac[ing] art's traditional concern with composition with a focus on construction’ (The Art Story, n.d.) and an ‘ethic of "truth to materials," the belief that materials should be employed only in accordance with their capacities’ (The Art Story, n.d.). Eerily, some of the connotations connected to the 20th Century Constructivism movement related to our design path with Totem. We had initially designed from an aesthetic mind, or composition, but we should have been designing from a functional or constructivism style first, having constrained ourselves to wood as a material. Our redesign for Totem also echoes Constructivism philosophies as we worked with both the material and manufacture in mind creating a more organic shape to accommodate the CNC lathe.
Overall, the collaborative project was a success because of each of the individuals within it. I found working with two dedicated designers from multi-disciplined and multi-cultural backgrounds meant we could each influence the Totem project from a completely different angle. We worked well are communicating and vocalising our views in addition to compromising our own wants for the greater need of the group. Our outcome was attributed from a wide skill-set, including my sketching, Solidworks, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and prior knowledge of 3D printing, laser cutting and manufacture, in addition to new design approaches such as Najla’s 3D MAX knowledge and Phoebe’s videography and movie-making. We learnt and taught one another along the way and plan to continue this relationship to further each of our skills sets to create a greater portfolio of work.
100% Design 2016 – London Design Week – The Forum – ‘Not just a product: Brand-building in unexpected ways’ – Nick Finney, NB Studio
Papanek, V. (1985). Design for the real world. 1st ed. Chicago, Ill.: Academy Chicago, pp.1-13.
Pawlyn, Michael. Biomimicry In Architecture. [London, UK]: Riba Publishing, 2011. Print.
Ddw.nl. (2017). Veganism - DDW 2016. [online] Available at: http://www.ddw.nl/en/event/590 [Accessed 20 Oct. 2016].
Dunneandraby.co.uk. (2016). Dunne & Raby. [online] Available at: http://www.dunneandraby.co.uk/content/bydandr/13/0 [Accessed 20 Oct. 2016].
Dunne, A. (2005). Hertzian tales. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp.83, 147-148.
Psychology Today. (2016). Guilt. [online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/guilt [Accessed 10 Nov. 2016].
Schultz W (2015). "Neuronal reward and decision signals: from theories to data" (PDF). Physiological Reviews. 95 (3): 853–951.
The Art Story. (2016). Constructivism Movement, Artists and Major Works. [online] Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-constructivism.htm [Accessed 6 Dec. 2016].
Figure 1 – Nick Finney of NB Studios speaking on The Forum panel at 100% Design 2016 (Hall, C. 2016)
Figure 2 – Pictorial diagram of the differences between linear, open loop and closed loop (Hall, C. 2016)
Figure 3 – Impact of Design flow chart (Hall, C. 2016)
Figure 4 – ‘What am I part of’ flow chart (Hall, C.2016)
Figure 5 - Veganism exhibition organized by La Terrasse at DDW 2016 (Hall. C, 2016)
Figure 6 - 'Eat' by Marloes Maarmans at DDW 2016 (Hall.C, 2016)
Figure 7 - Our four toy credentials in symbol form (Hall.C, 2016)
Figure 8 – Fibonacci’s Spiral - Filmmakeriq.com. (2013). Fibonacci Spiral. [online] Available at: http://filmmakeriq.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Fibonacci-Spiral2.png [Accessed 14 Jan. 2017].
Figure 9 – Fibonacci’s spiral in nature - Cdn.niftyhomestead.com. (n.d.). Fibonacci. [online] Available at: https://cdn.niftyhomestead.com/assets/images/Art/Fibronacci/nautilus%20shell.jpg [Accessed 2 Jan. 2017].
Figure 10 – Totem helix Solidworks render (Hall, C. 2016)
Figure 11 - Oxymoronic 'guilt-free' cake example (Hall, 2016)
Figure 12 - Phoebe, Najla and I experimenting with children's toys (Hall, C.2016)
Figure 13 – Reflecting HOLON by Michiel Martens and Jetske Visser at DDW 2016 (Hall, C. 2016)
Figure 14 - Muffin the Mule & wooden Scrabble - 'Must Have Toys' - V&A Museum of Childhood. (2004). Must Have Toys 1950s - V&A Museum of Childhood. [online] Available at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/collections/must-toys-1950s/ [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016].
Figure 15 - Proun Room 1923 by El Lissitzky - My Favorite Arts. (2017). Proun Room by El Lissitzky. [online] Available at: https://theartstack.com/artist/el-lissitzky/proun-room [Accessed 5 Jan. 2017].
Figure 16 - Version 1 and Final Totem CAD render (Hall, C. 2016)
Figure 17 - Work Totem Poster (Hall, C. 2016)
Figure 18 - Constructivism inspired poster (Kowalska, P. 2016)
Figure 19 - Online advertisement (Alrumaihi, N. 2016)
Figure 20 - Mycelium-bound book - The Growing Lab - DDW 2016 (Hall, 2016)
Figure 21 - 'A little bit different' design Micha van der Palen and Sten van Helvoort - DDW 2016 (Hall, 2016)
Figure 22 - Flax Chair maket by Christien Meindertsma - DDW 2016 (2016)
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