Sunday, November 30, 2008

Design is intelligence made visible

I first learned the probity of art through drawing. I was able to disclose the heart of visual thought, go abroad with my imagination, and associate spirit and perception. One line, one shade, everything has a purpose and it is coalesce with the surroundings in a frame. I learned that everyone can draw a line, but not all of them are the same. In the field of design, I learned that industrial design is not only based on the user research and mass production, but it can also pertain to the probity of drawing: the aesthetic quality, purpose and “soul” of the piece.

Industrial design is a broad field where there are many ways of discovering, approaching, and considering the definition of design. As discussed in my previous post, Campana brothers and Tokujin Yoshioka are designers who portray the coexistence of art and design in their work. Their process of creating a piece that is at once functional and artistic object is truly inspiring. How do the designers turn an ordinary material into something extraordinary? I believe that the answer lies in how one views and values design in different perspective. Yoshioka was able to turn mundane object into exhilarating design that reflects the designer’s talent, culture, and spirit.

(Made of plastic straws we use everyday )

Shawn Lovell is a designer who mainly works with metal. She creates magical metalwork with motifs from nature in her design: furniture, trellises, gates and doors. With her product, it not only creates magical and mellow atmosphere, but also brings the harmonization of nature and the environment that it is placed in.

In addition to Lovell’s work, a designer Charles Kraft approaches art and design with a different perspective. He is renowned for his sublime work in the delicate medium of porcelain. He mainly values the meaning of a work more than the function. This piece, Peace is Fragile, illustrates the fragile beauty embedded with the most popular and dangerous weaponry of our generation. His goal is to make “Life-size ceramic weaponry so gorgeous and patently functionless that it will bedazzle and confound everyone who sees it.” Its portrayal of explosive weapons into fragile porcelain is very unique. It is interesting to see how the casting and decorations of floral motifs carry serene and nonchalant emotion that overpowers the anxiety and insecurity of these popular weapons.

It is fascinating to perceive how people see design in many different ways. I see that Art and Design is a powerful tool that can inspire, change someone’s life, or embed a trace of profound memory in one’s heart. I remember coming to RISD with a conviction, wanting to influence people and the world with art and design. "Design is intelligence made visible," said Lou Danziger. Indeed, design reveals the designer’s intelligence: thoughts, skills to give life and soul to a product. I want to hold on to my conviction close to my heart and strive to be a designer who can have an impact on someone’s life.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Art and Design

Can designers be an artist? Bruce Munari, who himself was artist and designer, threw this question to the audience in his book, “Design as Art.” Munari insisted that design be beautiful, functional and accessible. It seems that in terms of designing a product, many people put an emphasis that the product should follow the rule of function and form. Therefore, the sense of artistic quality is likely to get absent in the process of design when one is focusing on user needs, technology, and mass production. I believe being an industrial designer is more than just bringing functionality to the design and consumers; it is about bringing emotional design in which a product delivers joy and pleasure to people.

There are many prominent designers who see design as art. For instance, Fermando and Humberto Camapana approach design with unique style that becomes a piece of art. They say the relationship and having constant interaction with their pieces is indispensable part of design. In each of their design, the Camapana brothers tell a story, making connection with people, city’s life, culture and nature. Analogous to flamboyant and baroque style and culture in San Paolo, Campana brothers illustrate this theme in their design. Their Sushi chair is small edition of furniture which is made of felt, textile, synthetics rolled into concentric rings on welded iron structure. This dazzling piece of furniture is indeed unique and brings pleasure to people who sit on them. Also, Vermelha is a chair made of steel frame and rope with an acrylic base, covered with cotton. This piece is very gestural, bringing life to furniture. Campana brothers have special way of approaching and constructing materials with another material that transform sculptures into functional pieces.

In addition to Campana brothers, Tokujin Yoshioka also brings his culture, use of nature and technology into his design. The transformation of most banal object to something exquisite piece of art and design is truly breathtaking.

Furthermore, the Original Stool by Breaded Escalope employs peculiar and spontaneous manufacturing technique in which it creates one-of-a-kind stool that has its own unique form and pattern. Breaded Escalope uses hollow orb mould filled with dyed resin, and allows the whole contraption to be loose upon the landscape. For example, they loosen the contraption down a river. With the flow of the water and because of the constraints of the mould, each mould shows different topographies and varied forces they have been subjected to. (

Observing the surroundings with different perspective, going beyond formal conventions and stereotypes has been shown by these designers: Campana brothers, Tokujin Yoshioka, and Breaded Escalope. Being an industrial designer is more than just bringing functionality to the design. The innovation of design is to make art. To bring meaning, life and emotion to a product along with functionality definitely shows design as art. By design, it can start up a conversation between people and the world. As a young artist, and designer, I hope to bring these factors into my design in the future.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Better World by Design

In the previous essay, I have mentioned that innovation is a circular motion. In the process of researching projects featured at A Better World by Design, I was thrilled to see a project that was in parallel notion to that innovation comes in a circular path.

We are faced with many problems that human beings have created: pollution, climate change, and exhaust of natural resources. As the Earth seems to deteriorate each day, there is a new field of science called Biomimicry that goes back to the nature to seek innovation. The order and function of Mother Nature, and all the living creatures are in perfect order and so intricately designed. For example, particular shape found in nature provides power in design. The flippers of the humpback whale have not only non-smooth leading edges, but also have bumps and tubercles on it. The rough texture and surface of the flipper allows more flow and increase aerodynamic efficiency. This notion is applied and proved superior efficiency on wind turbines and airplane wings. (

In addition to the power of shape, there is a discovery of resilience and healing of tardigrade. Tardigrade can withstand without water for a long period of time and still regenerate itself. Learning an idea from organism, designers applied this inspiration to the problems with vaccines around the world about refrigeration. In the same form as tardigarde, vaccine can dry out and case in same sugar capsules which is found with tardigrade in itself. Thus, vaccine can be no longer refrigerated.

(Image of a Tardigrade )

It is amazing to see manifold of discoveries made by Biomimicry that guide to solve human problems. The nature is full of perpetual source of ideas and inspirations. The profound switch of looking back at the nature also changes our perspective of “How life make things, how does life make the most of things by adding information to matter, and how does life make “things” disappear into systems.” There is a need to not only learn about the natural world, but learn from the natural world.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Bird's View

Industrial designers have skill and power to change people’s lives. We think, we create, and we solve problems to improve the world. Designs are mainly focused on consumer goods: enhanced transportation and communication device, better entertainment goods, and variety of self satisfaction products. However, in terms of designing, we need not to be a man of limited scope, but man of broad scope. I learned that there are only 10 percent of people who lead a productive life where one possesses home, healthy family, car, and money. The other 90 percent are in desperate need. In many countries, people are suffering with natural or man-made disasters such as war, famine, or civil unrest. The world is so big, and we have so little knowledge of what is occurring around the world.

There are myriad of design opportunities out there that can associate design and issue of social and humanitarian importance. In the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, they had an exhibition about the “Other 90%.” The designers addressed the solution for the most basic need in suffering countries. The basic human need consists of shelter, health, energy, and transportation. Looking at products that could impact and improve lives of others, preserve local cultures providing hope for the future, I was bewildered. I had been confused and having doubts about industrial design at times, so then I would ask myself, “Why produce more products when we have enough already? Are we only redesigning to make things pretty?” But the answer lies in looking at design in different perspective. Humanitarian designs displayed in Cooper-Hewitt Museum were not luxurious or aesthetic, but they were certainly functional. With low cost approach, products reflected on the consideration of people and culture in that specific country.

Over this summer, I had a mission trip to Camalu, Mexico. Trip to Camalu was different experience for me where it was my first time to encounter new environment and acquiring eye to see the world in a larger perspective. I spent time with native habitants of Camalu who were rejected from society and often lived in a mountain. I noticed the native habitants’ desperate need for better home, food, clothes, and water. Children were running around in bare feet, seeking for someone to love them. At their homes, large family was living in a room that was the size of my single dorm room. In addition, our mission team had an opportunity to build houses for two families. It was a very simple structured house constructed out of plywood, nails, and some protective rooftop sheets. It was directly built on a Camalu soil. Our team had finished constructing and painting the house in approximately 7 hours. The house was not sumptuous, but it definitely served purpose of a shelter for the family to be protected from outside world. The house cannot be compared to homes we live in. However, the tears in their eyes for thankfulness, the happiness we were able to deliver were priceless.

This experience in Mexico has given me a vision and an urge to make a difference. Design matters for those who are in need and suffering. Indeed, a Link between design and issue of humanitarian importance will become a powerful tool. Speak up through design; let our voice be heard across the country.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Enculturation, acculturation and design

A product is developed through many stages. First, a designer has to encounter the understanding of the market, the consumer’s need and their behavior. Then, designer would deliver the solution to the problem. Above all, the meaning of product design has a huge impact of the culture. Gender behavior, the norms, and value are affected by the culture. Ever since the childhood, we learn how to interact with our environment. From elders, teachers, friends, religion and media, we are able to receive information about the way of life. Mom would tell their sons, “Boys are not allowed to play with Barbie dolls,” and that boy will automatically think dolls are only for girls. As a result, he will have his stereotypical view of how gender should behave in society.

In the case study of Maines’ vibrator, it is evident that the meaning of the product and construction of female identity changes over time. In the trail of “Passion and Power,” one woman talks about how she came from a culture where they consider genitals as something you should be ashamed of. Also, another woman says, “I am an educated woman, I am an acknowledged and acclaimed artist, I am a person who is just dumber and shit about my body.” This illustrates the perseverance of the female struggle as their identity in society. Culture tells that an educated woman should not engage or excite over sexual pleasures. Thus, even though vibrator serves its need for women, the culture describes that vibrator is a socially sensitive product and it is not acceptable to be seen in public.

There is another socially sensitive product in the world of cosmetics. If the cosmetics were only focused on the exterior display of a person before, now it focuses too on display of the private parts. Beauty product called “Betty,” is a coloring for “Hair down there.” ( The creator Nancy Jarecki inadvertently discovered a need of this coloring product among many women. Jarecki says, “Sophisticated women, who spent time and lots of money getting their hair just right, had no solution for coloring the hair down there. They were totally overlooking this crucial beauty area. It was clear women (even some men) were desperate for a product like this.” The launching of the color dye for hair down there to match the hair up there was successful and was an award winner in 2007 for Cosmetic Product Innovator. Betty was featured in many presses such as Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines. This product, like vibrator, may be seen as taboo, something one should keep it as clandestine product. Nonetheless, the shift of culture nowadays tells us that it is not big of a deal and that it is indeed a design solution for a need. People address need of social freedom. The demand for social freedom is spoken through the product and how it is portrayed in open advertisement such as magazines, TV, and other media sources.

I believe designer have a power to speak for social freedom and influence the shift in culture through his or her design. The culture tells us boys should not play with Barbie, but who created this rule at first hand? Designers learn of enculturation, but they should also take into account of the acculturation. With this acknowledgement, there would be an innovation that could interrupt the structure of belief that is embedded in our society.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Does innovation come in a straight line? Or in circular path?

The world is rapidly changing every day, but when I pause and look at the history of design, I see a large pattern of cycle that goes continuously. Thinking about past and passed subject, I feel that the direction of today’s design tends to reflect back to history. Some people say, from history, one is able to foresee the future. People look back on history, improvise, and perhaps get inspiration from it. In addition to this, people are also bringing back history into the present. For example, sustainable design, fashion, and vintage designs are inspirations from the cycles of the past used in modern design. Is our idea of innovation always come from the past? There is a new innovation in every design, but, is the term for innovation means going backward in history?

I was looking at the big issue of green movement that grows in society. Before the green movement began, it was often cases with many industrial designers that they value functionalism, and emotional design as a crucial point to consider in terms of designing. The product we use, we touch, and see should not be frustrating, and perplexing, but it should serve its purpose, be attractive, and be pleasurable. In addition to these points, there is a new aspect added in order for a product to be considered “a good design.” What is a good design? Nowadays, people seem to promote sustainable design as a good product. Sustainable design is to keep from giving away, to keep in existence, and to maintain its value. Also, sustainable design is reaction to the global environmental crisis. This issue takes our thoughts back to the beginning of human history. Even before Industrial Revolution, there was the beginning. Whoever created the earth, the galaxy and beyond is the ultimate designer who surpasses time and generation. The sky decorated with clouds, trees, like mood lamp, changing color every season, the light that emanates heat, atmosphere and playfulness with its shadow are some of the basic designs that people often get inspirations from. The creator’s greatest design would be the invention of human beings. Our skin, hairs, eyes, nose and mouth, hand and feet, all these features are taken into consideration so intricately and flawlessly that they are harmonious as a whole.

From the creation of human being, I believe is the beginning of history. With God’s creation, we used to take advantage of nature without any cost. However, with growth of human desire, people started to dominate it. From the Arts and Craft movement, to the Industrial Revolution where mass production began, and the Bauhaus movement with its functionalism ideas, up to now, it is interesting to see how our thoughts of innovation and creativity come from applying designs from nature. For example, from stones and wood, people were able to make tools and from flying birds, people were able to dream of flying and create airplanes. First we were oblivious of non-manmade objects that we take granted for. Nonetheless, with development of technology, depletion of natural resources, and damage to ecosystem, we are fully aware of our damage. Before, our design was mainly focused on how we live, how we interact and improve based on solutions learned from the past, but now, sustainable design goes back to the pure form of nature in order to bring an awareness of surroundings we live in. There is a sustainable architecture called Genzyme that was highly rated by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). In this building, there is no employment of any artificial lighting. But instead, a series of roof-mounted heliostats, also known as mirror, automates and tracks the rotation of the sun. As a result, it fills the Genzyme Center with natural light from the top of the atrium.

In addition to this green building, the idea of sustainable furniture is prosperous. Over this summer, I worked with the production team of Partly Sunny Democratic National Convention, part of the Green Constitutional Congress. Our team’s mission was to make the tables and benches of the exhibition out of recycled wood. It was thrilling to see how reusing left over woods could come up with new designs. In a big picture, through this green method, we are trying to bring somewhat aspects of the pure nature to our surroundings.

The idea of cycling is also seen in fashion industry. Recycling of fashion trend is prominent in the world of fashion design. It is evident that today’s designers study past trends and past culture to bring inspirations back to their collection. Elizabethan, Victorian, Bohemian, to Vintage style and previous fashion periods are inspiration to many designers. Most importantly, the advent of the Green movement impacted on the fashion industry as well. The essence of EcoNouveau is to use sustainable material for the wear. Issey Miyake, one of the famous fashion designers, brought a recycle wear for looks to future fashion. Miyake says, “Making new fashion is not enough; designers in the future will have to look at reusing materials.” Recycling old clothes and fabric and using alternative material are unconventional idea in the fashion industry. It would be challenging to have clothes to look attractive and sustainable at once. But this new trend certainly emphasizes the idea of going back to the pure nature for resource.

I see that in the world of design, there is an ongoing conversation between all elements; trend is never ending, it always leads to the following trend. Also, the use of material in its purest form is rooted in nature and history. Looking further on everyday life, I notice that everything is just recycling of ideas. I was thinking of how one generates an idea and how the idea of generating leads to think about cycling. As I observe the surrounding designs around me, I believe that innovation comes not in a straight line but rather in circular path. Indeed, past is more part of our present than the future.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

id history

Preserving our it possible?
Looking at different methods of preservation.

Use of natural light in association with buildings.

History of chair since Art and Crafts movement and up to now.
Through history, we are able to learn, and foresee where our next design is headed to.