9:57 PM


Posted by Fiona |

As I think about ID History class this year it is hard to say where to start. It certainly has not been what I expected, but I wouldn’t say it was a bad experience. Nor can I say I learned a significant amount about ID History. But one thing I can say is that it forced me to actively reflect on subjects I might only have thought about in passing, subjects that are increasing relevant to modern designers each day. Perhaps most importantly the class gave me the opportunity to develop what exactly my design philosophy was and how to communicate it.

As I have begun to gather my reflections over the course of the semester I have discovered a common thread, which recently became thicker, thanks to what feels like a life-saving trip home for thanksgiving.

Tradition, meaning in design, this is my challenge; this is what I want to give people in my designs, an experience that is important to them. It is a priority for me to consider and create product s that represent values in the community. I’m not talking about bible thumping, gun-toting values or anything like that. It’s hard to really pin down exactly what I am talking about, so I am going to do something I have barely done throughout this entire semester, talk about existing products.

In homage to the ID department, and its current fascination with sustainable and socially responsible design, I will start with a product that is in hot debate, or at least I hope.

The Lifestraw, I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before, but take a moment to consider my point of view on the product. It is no secret that this product is saving lives, but because of its global design it successfully neglects to address a few key problems. Disposal, distribution and efficiency present obstacles for all globalization products like the life straw, but the angle I want you to consider is its cultural relevance.

The Lifestraw does not make the act of drinking purified water important, it makes it safe. Safe until a year goes by and the filter is no longer guaranteed to function to its full capacity. The answer, of course, is not to print a tribal pattern on the side of the straw, but something different for each community, for each person, for each action.

Now let’s consider a product that I believe makes this happen, a product that does it job and solves a problem, but also changes the entire experience in a way that is not cumbersome but beneficial. The Kinkajou project or, is a low cost projector you might have heard about through design that matters, or the DESE students. What is special about this product that makes it such a role model for me is that it made the act of learning at night accessible but also an experience to change lives forever. The projector uses low cost LED lights to project images from microfilm, on just about anything, but generally some kind of chalkboard. The brilliant thing is that students can now get up and trace the figures projected on the blackboard and actively learn how to read and write in a completely new and exciting way.
Both of these products solve problems effectively,, but only one finds true significant meaning, giving the community not only something for today , but something for tomorrow.

Because like I said before.

Change is in the air.

7:17 PM

limited production life

Posted by Fiona |

Limited production

Where do I start?

I’m supposed to hate it... right?

But most of the best things in life come in limited production. Cheesy things, teenage love notes, backwards Christmas cards you made your grandparents when you were little, good friends, really good products? It’s debatable, but all good things are.

Limited production products, the kind that sell for thousands of dollars are a different story. There are blatant benefits that come out of these processes if they are meant from the start to be beneficial. Although, if you are making a bench dipped in platinum that’s also a different story. I’m all for bringing things into this world that we have never seen before, and without those one or two things that change the way we perceive what’s possible, everything would stay the same.

As one of my most treasured friends have said, and many wise people before her, “there is a time and a place for everything”, there was a time for that platinum bench, even if its place is to tell us it was a useless meaningless idea. That conclusion is all my own, and one that is relevant to my experiences and my beliefs as a designer only.

I don’t like that bench for a number of reasons, not just because I see it as a waste of materials. But again that’s a whole different story.

Good examples of limited production products are all around us. Hand crafted wooden boats, beautiful films, a pair of custom leather boots, these are all things that deserve to be appreciated for themselves, one and only. There is a craft that comes with anything limited production, and a level of respect that comes hand in hand. And whether or not you like the specifics or the material chose or the sometimes contrived aesthetics this field of design is an art form just like any other.

To say that limited production is the answer to designing without a user group in mind is something I fundamentally disagree with. We as people take in every bit of information that we can process every millisecond of every day, and even if we are making something purely to describe ideas made in our heads all we are doing is regurgitating everything that came before us, putting one thing in front of another or one thought upside down, or however it may be. It’s not to say that no original thought has ever been had purely only that as humans we are based on progression. Progression is what I look to for inspiration, and it is the father of everything new, it is possibilities. Even a platinum bench has a frame of reference and fits into the puzzle somehow.

The more complexities and facets a designer builds into the product conceptually the more elaborate the meaning is going to be. But what is important to remember is that this has no bearing on the worth of the product, it is only guidelines for what it is meant to be worth, and every product is the outcome of our own perception of it.

5:46 PM

Design for Disassembly

Posted by Fiona |

Change is in the air.

We are ready for a new president, and we are ready for a new point of view, but are manufacturers, consumers, designers ready to part with their waste producing ways?

Design for Disassembly is one of many schemes developed to tangibly introduce sustainability to our unsustainable world. It is a plan that considers the entire live cycle of a product, and considers its birth as important as its rebirth. Products should be designed in parts that can be recycled, reused, and refurbished, from the point of conception.

As “World Changing”, and online magazine focused on development and sustainability, puts it, design for disassembly is all about cutting into the waste stream. If products were developed and utilized in this way the waste would become as important as the product.

The concept is that products would be made modularly, or with parts that can easily come apart, parts that are recyclable, and made of a single material.

Design for Disassembly is a step in the right direction, if every product was made this way it would reduce waste drastically. But some say that this solution is only a band-aid, and that what we should really strive to do is create a zero waste economy.

“Basically, as a manufacturer, you "lease" raw materials to consumers in a product form with the understanding that at the end of the product's life, the consumer will give it back. That way, you completely close the waste loop, and allow yourself the chance to re-use plastics, metals, chemicals, and even components in future designs.”

This is ambitious to say the least, and requires a commitment from the consumer. It is hard for us as Americans to truly grasp the affect our waste has around the world. Most of us will never see the piles of goods that leave our shores to pile up in places never meant for people to go. But one day, if we continue producing the way we are we will begin to see these piles, on our own shores, piling up right in front of our highs. If you look hard enough you will see it has already begun.

But change is in the air, and I am hopeful.

11:10 PM

my commitment

Posted by Fiona |

It is a reality that designing for a culture you have no connection with mentally, physically, or geographically, can be twice as hard. But it is also a reality that it can twice as important.

I’ve always been a competitive person, sometimes not in my favor, but it makes for an interesting game night and a successful poker night generally. I view almost every situation day to day as a challenge, something I have to overcome, and something I have to win. That is why I believe my interest in humanitarian design is so fierce. To me it is quite possibly the biggest challenge we are facing in the design community today, and it is something I take quite seriously.

Recently, thanks to my current studio class, I have been volunteering at a Refugee Resettlement Program here in providence. So the lecture on Monday was fascinating to me because I had real human stories, and relationships to relate to. I help take care of the children while their parents take literacy classes, all of these children for the most part grew up in refugee camps. I have never been around children that were more caring, or more loving than these. They aren’t shy, and are so beautiful. I have gotten more out of it then I could have ever imagined, and it has solidified and made more tangible my desire to help people who are not in a situation to help themselves.

These children only represent a small fraction of the international community, and in no way can have any significant composite role in my frame of reference as a designer. Certainly my relationship with them and everything I learn about them is important, and can be used as research, but it is always a part of a much larger scheme. This is the key to being able to design for people you do not know, constantly re-analyzing the larger scheme, and reimagining you design process. If you consider it in this way designing for a retirement community in Boca becomes as easy as designing for and elderly community in Cambodia. It takes a commitment, to agree as a designer that you are willing to change, and adapt in order to help as many people as possible. It is very possible as a designer to find a niche and crawl into it, knowing that it will be there to provide you with a creative outlet. But it takes a different type of designer to evaluate their job and understand that maybe the mandate is a far cry from the answer.

Green Design, Humanitarian Design, Eco-Design, Design for Social Entrepreneurship, whatever you want to call this trend, new ideas are out there, and movements are happening. If you want to call it cliché there are lots of opportunities and reasons for you to do that, but it cannot be denied that a significant portion of the goals within these communities are desired, and incredibly necessary.

I view it as my personal challenge to question my role as designer, and walk out of RISD with an ID degree quite possibly without the desire to develop any new products.

10:17 AM

meaning in design

Posted by Fiona |

During our discussion last class, what struck me about the case studies we considered, is that we did not ask what the problem behind the facade was. For example, we talked about the vibrator origins as a medical device, but we did not discuss why women had to let sexual problems be addressed by a doctor, and not their lover. To me the problem vibrators were solving is not that of hysteria, as suggested, but of social stigma. It was a way in which a product that was needed in society found an excepted usage through a medical persona. The product avoided a change in sexuality among women when it first came into use. Later, as women's sexuality became more liberated people began to accept that it was a part of the world and that is was a product in use outside of the medical community.

There have been multitudes of products that have followed a similar design path. These are products that are needed in society, that find a way to avoid social taboos, and in turn create them.

Take for example the rubber bracelets that Madonna, and many of her peers, wore throughout the eighties. At that time they were a sexual accessory that existed in a post sexual revolution era. Sexuality had just exploded in the late 60s and 70s, teens and adults alike had discovered that if they were more open about what happens behind closed doors, they could have a more fulfilled sexual agenda, and there for a more fulfilled life. By time the eighties came along people started to peak, sexuality was at an all time high, and people were fighting back. The HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the realization of STDs began to surface, and the reaction was the culture shift in the nineties, which in the arts you can see as a reversion to innocence, but also bitterness. Singers, pop idols, and rock stars changed their tune. As we entered the nineties, sexuality went back underground quite a bit. Coming from a time when Times Square was a Porn Mecca, filled wall to wall with $.10 peep shows, to a time when Porn was seen as something deviant. This same shift affected products as well.

Consider again the rubber bracelets, in the 80s they were considered to be just another cheap accessory, you could buy at the local mall, and look like your favorite pop star. They became increasingly popular among school kids in middle and high school because they were incredibly cheap, so there was somewhat of a market overload, everyone had them. Because they came with so much visual, and sensory baggage they became a social status kind of product, they kind of thing the cool kids were wearing. As the sexual revolution hit its breaking point, the bracelets became, along many other products, a way for teens to express they sexual prowess just as their idols do on T.V. Kids would wear the bracelets to school and use them to either count how many sexual partners they had, and display on their wrist, or invite people to rip one of suggesting that they want to be a potential sexual partner. These practices became widely popular, and schools and parents at a time when sexuality was becoming something with a lot more consequences started to take action. Kids were denied the right to wear these bracelets to school, it was example of an attempt to micro-manage an entire change in society. Stigma was placed on anyone that did wear them, and they were seen as deviant.

The life span of the bracelets, currently near extinction, is curious, and interesting, and as I have described, one that was constructed throughout history. Its example of a product that has developed meaning based solely on its role in modern American society. This approach to product design is something that deserves understanding, and can provide designers with a voice of reason.

2:02 PM

My Things

Posted by Fiona |

It’s hard to imagine that my worth equals how much the shirt on my back costs. I spend a lot time thinking about what it is that makes me worth something more to one person than to another. To some the answer is the shirt on my back, and to others it is something else, I couldn’t say. To me this is what it all comes down to, my worth, our worth as a community, monetary value realized or imagined, quantified or ignored. My design philosophy is based on my personal identity, who I believe I am, the stuff really good tattoos are made out of. I put pressure on myself to relate my worth to every action I take, especially my designs.

My world was put upside down when I came to Providence. I come from Jacksonville, Florida, a place of diversity, football, the beach, and boiled peanuts. A lot of the reason I came into design was for that place, and the people I knew there, Jacksonville is the biggest hodge-podge of ideas, decades, and dilemmas. To be accepted there all I had to do was wear a Juicy Couture necklace, and the smallest shorts I could buy, in my childhood I had no real understanding of treasuring things. Honestly, I didn’t need to; we moved so much that anything I loved was generally lost along the way. I learned to make new friends, buy new clothes, and play with new toys. This resulted in an eagerness to have a concrete belief in the person I was, so that I wouldn’t have to change along with my surroundings. When I got to Providence I thought I had done just that, but it quickly became obvious that with a simple shift up the coastline my worth had become something unquantifiable, it was no longer relevant to my environment, especially relating to the things I owned. In Providence the relationship between cliques is defined. The hipsters, the locals, the cool kids, the outcasts, it is all clearly defined, and I was expected to choose.

In my first timeline, I discussed Time Capsules, and I had to ask myself, if I was going to create a Time Capsule what would be in it? Would it be things that I thought would make me look cool, or would it be things that made me look different and unique. A Time Capsule is something that is temporarily final. Once you bury it, it is lost for the rest of your lifetime, until it is opened again by another generation. The path my life has taken makes me want to understand who I am at all points in my life, so that if I had to create a capsule that encompassed all of my experiences, it wouldn’t be so hard.

The simple transition from a place that was born from fifties architecture, to a place that is full of rich history and beautiful symmetry, makes me appreciate the worth of a worn t-shirt, or the inside joke on a button, in contrast to just another Chanel bag. I have always had what I need, I guess that is why I thought I needed something more, and it’s just a coincidence that RISD provided that. It was an outlet for something that was never-ending, creativity and drive. That is my way of dealing with the past. Piling it up as high as it can go, and molding it into what I am today.

This idea that that the things you choose to own can dictate who you are, not only to those around you, but to yourself, is a strong argument supporting function in relation to form. You decide what an object means to you, you also decide what it can mean to those around you. If you want to be the girl with the Louie Vuitton hair clip, or the girl with the head band she purchased from a thrift store in the fall, it is up to you. That is why I love design so much, everything is relative. What I want to put in the Capsule is relative, what I make of the things I own is relative, it is relative to anything or everything that I want it to be. That is why I started this essay discussing personal identity, because I believe that through each one of these essays we are all trying to tell our stories, we are all trying to communicate who we are. We are trying to describe what we would put in our capsules if we had to.

To relate this to my design philosophy is simple. I have learned to value the precious nature of belongings, I’m a college student to put it plainly, and new things don’t come cheap anymore. I have just begun to understand how fragile the balance of objects and property are in our modern world, no amount of signatures makes something tangible intangibly ours forever. I can only learn from my experiences and appreciate what I have. And what I have is what I make of it. That is why I want to help those in need. The theme that continues across each of my timelines is one of worth and responsibility. I believe that every designer has to take responsibility of what they put into the world. If you look at my second time line “Lighting in the Developing World”, you can see some of the exciting examples of things people, just like me and you, are doing to take responsibility for their designs.. I know now more than ever that the only thing I am capable of doing is helping people, and that will never change no matter where I am in the world. As I grow, and my morals and beliefs become more and more important to me every physical material and item I own becomes obsolete. It is no longer matter where I am in the world, whether or not I am in Jacksonville or Providence, it is only a matter of peace within myself, the stuff really good tattoos are made of.

“So you’ve been where I’ve just come/From the land that brings losers on/So we will share this road we walk/And mind our mouths and beware our talk/till peace we find tell you what I’ll do/All the things I own I will share with you/If I feel tomorrow like I feel today/We’ll take what we want and give the rest away/Strangers on this road we are on/We are not two we are one”
-The Strangers, The Kinks

3:04 PM

Chair Timeline

Posted by Fiona |

This timeline attempts to study the relationship between chairs, and their function. Most simply they are meant for sitting, but this timeline show how they can also facilitate other meanings and represent new ideas.
I first looked at thrones, and learned a little bit about their history. I found out that chairs were often places in temples to gods, so that they could have a place of leisure. So it was only natural that the kings would have this same oppurtunity, allowing them to have to connotation of a godly being.
Also the placement of the chair and significance of their title played a roll in its meaning. But it is undeniable that the chair itself transformed into a symbol of power.
I then went on to discover lots a chairs that we recognise today that aren't thrones but serve the same purpose, such as the president's chair in the oval office, or the chair at the head of the table in any household dinner, or the judges chair in tv competitions.