Saturday, November 29, 2008

is craft in id?

Searching through my past blog entries I found an undercurrent theme.  I found that I love craft.  Not just any craft.  I love a well-made, masterful crafted project. 

The blog entry about bamboo is an example of my interest in understanding a material and crafting it to its fullest potential.  Miya Buxton, the architecture graduate student in charge of the workshop, did her studies in Indonesia where she was grounded by her newly found interest in bamboo.  She was able to work and learn from the last master bamboo builder in the town.  He built traditional peaked bamboo roofs, but these had evolved from being merely structural to being the symbolic heart of the structure.  The work that Miya showed that came out of that intense understanding and exploration of the material was inspiring to me. 

I am so inspired by Gamper Martino’s project of 100 chairs in 100 days.  Watching a video how he worked on one of the 100 chairs was amazing.  He went back and forth shaving down the pieces so that they could match up as though they were made to be together.  The chairs have a seamless appearance.  I can see that and appreciate that because I know about craft. 

What about the boundaries of things that I’m ambivalent or confused about.  For example, I keep looking at the poly chair by Max Lamb.  If it was in a setting of an art gallery, would I turn up my nose and move on?  Placing myself in that situation I think that I would like the process but feel like there could be more of an exploration in the form study.  That chair does fall into his exploration of trying to create industrial products without the use of an industrial factory. 

But after looking at Max Lamb’s piece it makes me wonder, how would I feel if the project by Gamper Marti no was in a different context?  If it was not well crafted would it hold the same appeal?  I had already stated that honesty was a layer in his idea for the project, but I feel that as an artist he also holds a great deal of skill.  If these chairs were not made with a careful approach to blending and matchmaking, the series would not hold.  No matter how interestingly the different pieces were matched or put together, it could easily miss Gamper Martino’s overall vision.  It could still be interesting, appreciated and beautiful, but it would be a completely different project. 

After talking about these projects again, I wonder if I tried on too strong an opinion at points in my blog entries.  Do I have to have a set idea now?  During my freshman year in Rhode Island School of design, I took Wood Working with Hand Tools as a winter session class.  I took this class in order to get a feel of what industrial Design would be like.  I enjoyed sharpening the tools and using my eyes to literally see how flat I was making a piece of wood.  I entered Industrial Design perhaps with the notion that I would further explore making well crafted kinds of pieces.  Now, as a junior, I have to consider if I belong here in ID if I am looking for a craft outlet?  Can my desire for craft be fulfilled here?  Am I in the right major?  Is it really craft I am attracted to or if the piece is well crafted is it just easier for me to appreciate?  What is it really about?  I try to appreciate projects for what they are and my peers’ viewpoints are interesting to read.  I’m only 20 years young and still absorbing.  Maybe I don’t need to state exactly where my lines fall but I can tease and question them before they do.  

Sunday, November 23, 2008

will making this a limited edition post make more people read my post?

I like the feeling of making a unique limited edition one of a kind piece.  Having said this out loud, I also feel like I am constantly pressured to make accessible, sustainably-considered projects.  At the moment, I am in the midst of searching for what my priorities will be in my design practices.  Will that include the idea of limited edition design?  Does the pressure to be sustainable sometimes outweigh other ideas and design approaches I value?  How can I decide which projects will unfold such that a consideration of limited edition design will be a negative direction, or perhaps an enhancing quality?

The approach taken by the Brazilian Campana Brothers transforms as into a dream the industrially made and boring vernacular objects that are all around us.  For example, the brothers took their mother’s lawn chair and weaved a covering to add comfort and add to the rigidity to the chair.  The weave also hides the over-processed bland design, transforming into something elegant.  The designers are experimental, and this leads to work that is unique and thus only available in limited-edition quantity.  It is about the time and creativity that it takes to make the piece.  There is only one person that does it in the studio and he has free reign as to how he wants the design to come out.  Indeed, time seems to be part of their conceptual approach to the design process.  For example, the design is made by using strips of left over materials like felt and rubber, and then spiral the thin strips into a design is meticulous and I can only imagine how much time it must take.  The brothers wanted the element of time is in the piece.  But this aspect is important to me.  Indeed I prefer the chair not just because I find it aesthetically pleasing but also conceptually I feel more of a connection. 

Max Lamb is another designer exploring a limited edition practice.  In his one-off handmade poly chair series, Max Lamb hacks away at foam and then drowns it in rubber.  Here is where the element of exclusive fine art design escapes me and I feel like the designer is taking advantage of the consumer’s niche ideologies.  In the right light, I guess that is enough to buy a piece of disfigured polyurethane. 

Gamper Martino’s project of 100 chairs in 100 days is a better example of fine art design that I appreciate.  His approach was to find the perfect chair.  There is an honesty that I feel when I look at his pieces.  I think this is only a layer in his idea but an essential part. 

What do I consider myself?  Am I a person creating and solving using limited production as a driving force behind my decisions?  I am still an artist but I see that I have to try in order to pull myself back into what is defined here as “Fine art.”  When I think about it I do not find that I have a clear distinction between Fine art and Design, but there is a feeling.  So, I want to blend more of my fine art skills into my designs.  I am constantly learning that there are compromises that have to be made regarding where I spend my time.  There are so many problems to solve and it is such an important step to cross out considerations not to consider.  At the same time it helps with focus and usually leads to interesting unique results.   As a young designer, I am still experimenting with when and how to diverge, and when to bring it in, and converge on one design approach.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

on the conference

 “All problems are local all solutions are local” Cameron Sinclair.  As a designer how can you give disaster relief?  All designers have amazing innovative ideas and during their practice as a designer know that ideas have to be pushed in order to be implemented.  Cameron Sinclair pushes to get ideas to be implemented but there is a different approach.  He is not designing what he thinks will work he is incorporating the community he is helping with the whole process.  Does that mean the designer is one step removed?  I think the designer is even more incorporated into the process.  The designer has even more to consider with even more feedback.  “Not imposing architecture on a community” Cameron Sinclair.  In his projects the community picks the design.  Getting the community to be a part of the rebuilding process is an essential aspect in the approach of self sustaining rebuilding projects.  The community has to feel ownership in order to transcend ownership to the next generation. 

I am going to relay a different experience.  

The workshop Bamboo: Structural Grass was a great informative workshop by an architecture grad student Miya Buxton.  Bamboo can grow to its full height in 6 months but it needs to fill out its insides in order to be good building material.  Bamboo is considered a poor man’s material in some of these communities.  Bamboo houses were built for some hillside homes.  There was an earthquake and those homes were the only ones left standing.  After that bamboo homes were built everywhere.  Bamboo as a social object can carry power.  Maybe bamboo can create a rift in a stubborn aristocratic society.  There was a project she didn’t mean to spark but during the investigation in Indonesia she asked a master builder to build a small replica of the traditional roofs.  They built a small resting place normally built for resting during the day for workers of the land.  After her trip the builder told her that some requests had been made from the neighbors.  They wanted a little peaked roof resting place of their own.  I think that this is a great exploration and can’t wait to talk more about it with Miya. 


An approach that I found I liked hearing about was EMPATHY - PROTOTYPING - STORYTELLING.  Over all I think that the speakers that had this approach were a bit more in touch with focusing on helping and leaving with a lasting constantly improving community.
Work with local groups.  Don't just go with fresh eyes, ready to do something new.  Go with good experience, ready to consider local knowledge!

Here is this cool dude, named Ross Evans that developed a design to fix up bikes and make them more efficient.

Bruce Mau had a good presentation.  They were all about branding and changing the image of a company.  Coca cola for instance.

Carmen Sinclare.
Read what he is all about.  

Partners not victims.
the community needs to have ownership 
the community needs to want/like what you are building or else it will not last after you leave.  
economic sustainability- they need a job first.
the community has a plan. you just have to help them out with implementing.
disaster number one is the disaster.  disaster number two is the cookie cutter houses.  it displaces people and fragments them.  

Sunday, November 9, 2008

humanitarian design

Designers can contribute outside their own cultural and economic backgrounds.  I attended A Better World by Design conference and I heard a lot of different things.  That said, I’m not sure what is right, and what the best approach that a designer should make when faced with a situation involving extreme differences in culture and economy.  All the different professionals speaking and answering questions were representing different ideas and selling their passion.  Is this what you need in order to succeed? 

Wanting to contribute in solving a problem is great.  Thinking that you can solve every problem is not the right mind set.  There are so many problems in the world it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  The approach should be to hone in on a specific problem in a specific place in a specific instance, now.  I think in this way there is a focus and direction.  If the focus is broad, it is like drawing a huge circle then realizing that there are parts that are inefficient and unnecessary.  If there is a starting point then specific branching off, there is an opportunity to be able to grow into a thoughtful organic shape. 

Can you begin building without knowing if your foundation will be stable?  Time has to be spent getting to know the culture you are trying to help.  In order to understand their true needs and also to understand what you really offer as an outsider and a person who realistically can escape and be ignorant of their problem.  There also has to be an exchange of ideas through the whole project especially building projects.  People will not use or upkeep what they don’t like or feel connected to.

An example of positive interventions that have served as a case study for future projects is Gonofone by Iqbal Z. Quadir.  Though it is obvious in the result that the project is succeeding; I would like to explore a different side to designing the project.  I would like to focus on, the purpose and reasoning. 

Quadir’s idea was not to bring technology to the masses but to help build power to the people.  He is empowering the people not by charitably handing out working telephones, but by providing jobs and in turn purposely not handing the power to the government.  Quadir designed his help so that the people of the village could support themselves, and make their own decisions, and have possession and control of their situation. 

There are so many good intentions in the world they are just misguided and sometimes more hurt than good.  The US has for sixty years been putting money into programs to provide relief for refuges in underdeveloped countries.  Where is the change?  Or better yet where is the sustained change?  Just handing money to the government is not helping the country.  Why?  Quadir gave examples of developed countries that have gained power.  The similarities are that as the power of the people became stronger the governing powers decreased. 

Knowing what you are contributing, and how you, as a force, are going to be absorbed, rejected, insignificant, affective is how designers can contribute outside their culture.  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

rubber bracelets and the slogan

How do you understand the user’s agency (society, activity)?  Through user groups and personas developed by research and interviewing.  Personas are very important in the process of developing a design.  Understanding the user group is just another layer in properly designing a product.  Other things to consider may be cultural norms and statistics (numbers and charts).  There is also the process of interviewing that should be considered.  The process of figuring out what information you need is difficult but an essential step in understanding the user group and their needs and tendencies. 

What extent does the designer have to be able to “design” meaning into a product and determine a user’s behavior?  Through the example of the vibrator there was no meaning attached, other than that which was for curing medical hysteria in women.  Society took the appliance and skewed it to have a different meaning.  Does the designer have the responsibility to prevent that sort of manipulation of context?   Depends on the designer and depends on the product.  If the designer is all gung-ho about curing peoples with medical hysteria then that’s great for that time period.  There are new discoveries and redefinitions of millions of things.  The designer is not responsible for the evolving of the meaning of the product. 

How do products get meaning?  Products can get meaning through different means; through promotion, a slogan, marketing, or the design.  I remember when everyone wore rubber bracelets.  Pink represented the fight against breast cancer.  White for the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.  Yellow for Live Strong the fight against cancer.  For the designer of the rubber bracelet I doubt that it was considered what would be represented but I do think that there was a clear intention of having the ability to accommodate a variety of meanings. 

How can it be said that the designer controls or designs meaning onto a product?  The designer was able to predetermine the ability to accommodate and transform meaning into this particular product.  There was defiantly an investigation of the user group that they were targeting.  The need for a visual statement was what was needed and society declared the actual meaning of the statement; the product just lent itself to be able to hold statements. 

I think an artist can decide to design an object that could fall in the path of the cultural norm.  This could create a fork in the road and split or branch off into a meaning attached to an object.  Sales kicked up with William H. Hoover’s ten day free home trial, and eventually there were Hoover vacuum’s in nearly every middle class home.  With the invention of the portable vacuum in 1907 by James Murray Spangler, the vacuum became a symbol representing housewives.  Did the inventor of the vacuum invent it to be the symbol of housewives everywhere?  I don’t think so, but later the designer of the vacuum must have taken that into account? 

Now there is the Dyson vacuum that represents technological advancement and a design that would attract the technologically savvy male user group.  This has opened up another channel in the design of home appliances.  Could changing labels of society attribute to the development and acceptance of the product?  Perhaps this is not the first appliance that was made to target a totally different user group.  Now the Dyson is a symbol of sophisticated technology that anybody with a contemporary mind and style could own and use. 

Does the designer have the power to effect or control how a person can or cannot act?  Yes, in how the person can interact within the limitations of the product.  


Saturday, October 25, 2008

on sustainability and it’s encroach on design


I found a proposal for a building named Antilla located in Mumbai India, designed by Perkins & Will.  Antilla is covered in foliage, and vertical and horizontal gardens.  It is made up of living walls but what exactly does it look like?  It looks like a stack of CD cases with some green covers.  “Living walls are lovely but not a free ticket to environmental integrity.” (Web, 1) When I look at this building I see that it is green.  Literally green is not the definition of “Green Design.”  The materials used may have sustainable qualities, but is this not clearly a green trophy? 

Definition of Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a Green Building Rating System.  It is a standard for environmentally sustainable construction.  During this past summer I interned at an architecture firm that did a mainly LEED Certified projects.  I was there when they were in the midst of a specific project with the goal being LEED certified Gold.  I was given the task of checking off the possible credits that could be earned on the LEED website.  I had to click the box that said yes on a chart that had the list of all possible credits allowed on that project.  There was Public transportation access and bicycle storage and carpooling and water use reduction, 20%, 30%, and building reuse and so on. (Web, 2) The top of the site had the possible merit that could be earned, based on what I was checking off.  I felt like I was an accomplice for cheating.  It was as though I was bypassing the thought process I usually expect when confronted with a problem.  Then I realized, Money.  That is how this process of making something green was being accomplished.  Then right smack in the middle of my face was the reason.  “Platinum Certified.”

Organizations with money are jumping on the Bandwagon of Green Design.  Does this mean that in order to be successful, the contemporary understanding is that it has to be more than just a company; it has to be a green company? 



Does the merit of having a Green certified design makes a successful design?   

Sustainability is defined as the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

Does sustainability follow design or does design follow sustainability?   I am writing about sustainability and its influence on design.  Similar to the approach between functionalism and design.  Now, more and more, it has become the responsibility as a designer to be sustainable.  Though

Other factors that affect sustainable design- monetary impact, environmental impact,

Do you have to take one thing and not the other, do you compromise?

Do you compromise quality for quantity?

Does merit have a price? Yes.  Does that still make it sustainable?  Yes.  Is it still designed well?

Does sustainability outweigh design?

If something is designed using the most sustainable resources but from a design stand point is ugly then is it really sustainable?  People would inevitable not be attracted to using it and isn’t that wasted material, time, resources? 

Greenwash? Where has this derived from?  there are so many companies trying to jump on the green bandwagon

The question came up: creating a design that people love, or one that does no harm?

Is sustainability just on paper and not in the design?  Is there a sustainable esthetic that could be better honed in design?

This discussion is not to be misinterpreted that badly designed green design should be rid of, but that being green just isn’t enough; especially if monetary and intellectual resources are available. 


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