It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reading past the first paragraph

I personally think “Design for the Real World” should be required reading.  Yes, it starts off a bit bleak and contemptuous of contemporary (1970s) design but his point is that designers can make the world a better place and not just design junk that ends up in the trash.

Design has evolved (and Papanek updated the book admitting where he was wrong and right) but I think he still has a point: do you, the designer, really want to make the world a better place by finding and solving problems?   Are you doing that by skinning junk products or designing things that you know are overpriced bits of plastic that will just end up in the trash?

Even if you think have no choice but to work for some outfit that designs stuff that just ends up in the garbage dump, why not donate some of your design skills/time to those who can’t afford a designer in the first place?    My last doctor spent two weeks every year working at free clinics in poor countries, how much of your design time do you donate to people who need design but can’t afford design?   Not everyone can follow Papanek’s ideal and go live in third-world countries for months at a time, but look around your home town or neighborhood for opportunities. Could you help teach drawing and basic design skills to schoolkids?  Maybe donate some time to a local non-profit helping them redesign their cut-n-paste web site or their brochures made from InDesign templates?

Maybe you have a great idea that you’re just waiting to sell to the right investor — how about giving it away instead?  Open-source software (and now hardware) is making a huge change for the better in the world as top engineers give away their work so that others may benefit.

What work have you given away?

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posted by jet at 09:44  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Papanek on industrial design

School is consuming my life, so I’m making notes for future posts to my design journal.   Expect winter break to be a cavalcade of posts on WHY I AM SO AMAZINGLY BRILLIANT…

Today I was talking to a undergrad who is disillusioned with what he’s studying in industrial design studio.  While we were talking, I was reminded of something Papanek wrote that helped me figure out What I Want to do With My Life.

_Design for the Real World_, a book that got Papanek kicked out of the IDSA, really made me wake up and think about what it is I am doing and why.  The revised edition of _Design for the Real World_ is much better than the original, but the first paragraph stays the same:

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 shoe horns, 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 breath, designers have become a dangerous breed. And the skills needed in these activities are carefully taught to young people.

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posted by jet at 21:58  

Monday, October 20, 2008

RISD plays leapfrog

When I started off on this whole design reedumacation process a few years ago, RISD was one of the schools I immediately crossed off my list. My perception of RISD was that is was that it was a pure design and art school, almost happy to be a technophobic institution wrapped up in pre-21st century ways and a steadfast supporter of the (arguably correct) tenet that technology is not a part of the design process. I’m honestly in awe of people who can study form for extended periods of time, but that’s not who I am. (I do plan on hiring those people for balance, should I ever start a firm.) I’m interested in the symbiotic relation we have with technology and how that interacts with the design process, and that’s not the sort of thing that RISD is known for, much less being technically advanced in general. They were, the best I could tell, very much in the previous century in all sorts of ways.

Except that now, RISD is leapfrogging.

For those of you too lazy to go read wikipedia, “leapfrogging” is when you go from being way behind everyone else to being way ahead by skipping everything between “behind” and “ahead”. As an example, instead of ~30 years of desktop PCs and crappy software in schools, kids around the world are going directly from chalk and slate to OLPCs and mobile phones .

RISD is going to do the same thing.


RISD has Maeda.

There’s a 19th century-like hall of wonders called the “Nature Lab” at RISD, where students can look at something like 80,000 specimens from around the world. Which is a really useful thing to have when you need to study the physical structure of some random animal — why look at a book when you can look at an actual skeleton or taxidermy? Problem being, you need good light to study an object, and the Nature Lab is in a building, not outdoors in, well, nature.

Thanks to Maeda, the Nature Lab has artificial daylight and color adjusting lamps from Zumtobel.

That’s rethinking the education process in action. RISD doesn’t need a fancy computerized database with 3D holographs of everything, they just needed some state-of-the-art lighting in their historic building.

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posted by jet at 09:11  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008



I switched to feedburner for my RSS feed since it can do things like include my del. bookmarks and the like.

Initially, I just have it set to pull my del tags once a day.

If it you notice any problems, please let me know.

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posted by jet at 10:14  

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