Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Art + Design

Gรถdel’s Paradox: All systems are either complete but inconsistent, or consistent but incomplete.
This is an apt metaphor for the field of industrial design in all of its sprawling interdisciplinarity.  Any attempt to write one history of ID, as they do for the history of Art, will leave out too much. Industrial Design forces us to confront a complete field made up of a motley collection of sometime conflicting pieces. How will you organize these contradictions and complexities in your own mind? 

Industrial Design is a big tent with many strands of history anchoring it down. In the last weeks we have focused on how innovations in design can alleviate human suffering and participate in solutions for a sustainable world/economy. Our research is documented in your individual blog essays, which collectively offer an amazing compendium of thoughtful commentary and links to share and inspire others. Many of you will find yourself working for a lifetime with these problems and design opportunities.

And, as we have discussed, this problem/innovation aspect of ID represents a continuous concern across time and place, and is a strand that I have often referred to as the “Better Mousetrap” branch of ID history.

Now we turn back to a different approach, with a different history.

What is possible for a designer working at the boundary between Art and Design? What does that boundary look like today? Where is exploration being done? What is possible in this cultural space? Who are the young designers to watch in 2008?

I decided to organize this material around the “where”. Where do designers approaching industrial design this way circulate their ideas today? And so, listed below is a series of links to the design fairs, gallery/shops, museums, and specific ID schools that you should be familiar with. Within each I hope you will explore the many designers showcased in each venue, and watch the videos of these designers at work and explaining their approach to design. At the end, I include a few other things that I wanted to get out on the table now, as well.

How do you feel about limited production, experimental design? What about a design process derived from personal exploration of the sensual possibilities of materials and aesthetics, with no user group analysis involved? Is there a designer here who you could point to as an inspiration or mentor? Or not?

As usual, please explore this topic more thoroughly through the lens of your own directed research interests as a young designer. And then, write a 500-word essay on some aspect of this topic that interests you. Who interests you? Can you say why? How does this approach to design relate to your own interests in ID? Does this connect back to your essay on Functionalism in any way, or not? How does your response to this material connect to the point of view you developed in the last three essays?

Please post this essay by Sunday November 23rd at 9pm. Please continue to revise and perfect as necessary the impressive portfolio of essays you have written on your websites. Please be sure you have made an appointment to discuss your work with me in a one-on-one meeting before the end of the semester.

Design Miami/Basel - Next up December 3-6, 2008 in Miami.

Follow the link: Enter/Miami/Designer of the Year
Design winners for 2008 are the Brazilians: Fernando and Humberto Campana
See: Anemone, Boa velvet sofa, vermella doll crowd chair

Campana Brothers Interview on Poetry & Functionalism; being inspired by the local environment; the need to be recognized internationally before local opportunity returns.

Other young designers featured at the 2007-8 Design Miami/Basel Fairs:
Max Lamb, Tokujin Yoshioka, and Tobias Wong

Max Lamb: pewter chair cast in sand
2008 Designers of the Future winner
40 min Poly Chair:

Note also all the 2007 Miami Design Talks. See also, for example:
Studio Libertiny Paper Vases:

2007 Miami Design Winner Tokujin Yoshioka
Designboom interview:
Honey-Pop chair; Panna chair at Moss for Moroso; ToFU
Main website:

“One of the most recent and experimental works is 'PANE chair' (bread in Italian) that was presented at the Milano Salone del Mobile in 2006. It was selected to be a part of the Centre Pompidou and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and it is one of the most recent and very experimental art pieces Tokujin has created. While it goes through almost the same steps as baking bread, the fibers memorize the shape of the chair caused by heat. The chair was shown at the exhibition 'Tokujin Yoshioka x Lexus L-finesse – Evolving Fiber Technology' at the Museo Permanente. Tokujin also created a large-scale fiber installation, using more than 700km of fibers that shaped the whole space into a gigantic lens. 

In Autumn 2006, Tokujin presented his one-man show 'Tokujin Yoshioka – Super Fiber Revolution' at AXIS Gallery as a compilation of his research and study in fibers. Simultaneously his new book 'Tokujin Yoshioka Design' was published worldwide from the British art publisher PHAIDON. He always undertakes experimental designs in pursuit of new possibility for the future.”

Note that Tokujin Yoshioka has been very influenced by the important designer: Shiro Kuramata (1934 -1991)

Tobias Wong & Citizen Citizen

Ballistic Rose on Citizen site:
P2. ccPhone, etc
What’s the Fuss…
Virtually Mine:
Early Work: Perfect Lovers:
Book 1 on Rashid; Tattoo; Silver pill, smoking mitten, on/off, box cutter; shelving unit; rubber-coated pearls; dream.
Mirror Clock: “The mirror/clock derived from my desire to create a painting. I've tried before, in the traditional sense, but failed. So I reexamined what a painting consists of-background, middle ground, and foreground. I used design elements instead of paint, and voile, the mirror/clock. It's also the only object that I've titled, "untitled" to give it a traditional reference.”

Suck:UK site:

“…mass production has created its own antithesis. Consider the work of young, conceptual designers like Tobias Wong, whose solid gold McDonald’s drink stirrers and diamond-embedded rubber bouncing balls have made a satire of our decadence. There is nothing innately precious about an object, Wong seems to say, until value is arbitrarily applied to often ridiculous extremes. But while Wong illustrates the point using gold and diamonds—commodities coveted, in part, for their inherent scarcity—the scarcity of limited editions is artificially imposed. It’s a strategy most often associated with art, which begs the interminable question of where design ends and art begins. …For sure, it is a curious moment when design is increasingly rarefied (think Hella Jongerius vases) and art is going mass market (Takashi Murakami). Whether the two are merging is almost irrelevant. In the meantime, designers, galleries and manufacturers continue their cavalcade of new limited-edition products, and consumers can’t seem to get enough. The limited edition, in fact, is fast becoming mass-produced.”

See also the young designers Designboom Mart each May in NYC as part of the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair

ICFF Designboom Mart, May 2009 NYC

Moss, NYC/LA

Murray Moss, Note that RISD-ID grad Jacob Dixon has worked at the Soho store for some time. Say hi if you visit.
Links: The Daily New; Gallery. Familiarize yourself with the designers he represents here. For example: Baas and the husband/wife team of the Boyms

Maarteen Baas

Works: Treasure Furniture, Smoke, Sculpt, Clay Furniture,
Projects: workshops

Constantin and Laurene Leon Boym
Disaster Bldngs:

Babel Blocks:

8th c. Mass Production:

elevator portfolio:

As a sidepiece of free information: Laurene Leon Boym has been very active with the group “American Association of Women in ID”

Current: Jean Prouve. Next: Ron Arad opens Aug 2nd
Curator, Paola Antonelli, Design & the Elastic Mind

Schools with a strong Art/Design approach component:

RCA – Royal College of Art, London
Design Interactions
Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, Noam Toran
Hertzian Dreams, Projects 02, Tuneable Cities

Design Academy, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Philips collaboration. “Dreams precede Invention”
Goods Design:

See school offshoot blog approach to redesign:

ECAL – University of Art and Design, Lausanne Note: Kevin Quale has been accepted here; please talk to him for more information on this school, and Eindhoven. %3a pictures %3a industrial design

RISD today?
Consider: Alissia Melka-Techroew
(See more at Goods Design, Eindhoven link above)

[Please provide your suggestions and links for inclusion here, under RISD.]


The artist: Andrea Zittel
PBS Artists of the 21st c.
Living Unit, Pocket Property, Seasonal Uniform
Critical Space, 2006 New Museum:
Writing by Zittel in Alex Cole, Art + Design, 117-119. Posted on 5th floor near the elevator.

Please also consider the crossover ID/installation art piece/war memorial “Touched Echo” posted by Amy Su and linked at

Consider the Art/ID crossovers with textile and apparel:

See the recent Chanel/Lagerfeld/Zaha Hadid installation boutique in Central Park:
See Youtube video posted by class member Michelle Lee on her blog on November 2, 2008. ( and link to Lee, Michelle)

Not all Art/Design crossovers emphasize the same sensual aesthetic.
Eyebeam has a more techie, bohemian/nerd sensibility:


Kelly Dobson: Blendie

Finally, read Design Observer:

ID is a big tent. Where will you roam?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Better World by Design -RISD/Brown 08

In 1971, Victor Papanek opened his now-famous book, Design for the Real World, with this incendiary passage:
“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.” (Papanek, 14)

Two decades later, in the 1990s, social entrepreneur Paul Hawken published two seminal books (The Ecology of Commerce, 1993 and Natural Capitalism, 1999) that sought to point the way for a change that encompassed both the pragmatics of business and environmental sustainability. His most recent book, Blessed Unrest (2007) argues that there are a million organizations out there now working for change, and although they may seem “atomized”, modern communication tools are making these efforts come together and reach that famed “tipping point” of change.

Indeed, in the last five days, it has felt for me as though the tipping point was NOW. This weekend, just days after the most important US Presidential Election in a generation, I found myself speechless with amazed excitement at the RISD-Brown student-run conference “A Better World by Design”. This conference was conceived last spring by Brown engineering students; the committee then broadened to include three RISD Industrial Design seniors: Mike Eng, Tino Chow, and Winston Mi. By the time of the conference, a mass of volunteers had signed on, and many of them were from RISD-ID.

The presentations and workshops at A Better World by Design bombarded you with example after example of pioneering people, projects, and organizations begun in the last ten years (mostly) that used technology and design to make a difference, and a profit. This was the biggest change for me: the acceptance that the greatest change would come with a partnership between the shared interests of people, planet and profits – as the Triple Bottom Line philosophy puts it. A Better World by Design showcased a design reform movement that was not content to stay on the margin, but was working to change the center. This would be the path to the wide-scale change needed.

Since only about a dozen RISD-ID juniors were able to attend this weekend, I would like to use this week’s blog essay as an opportunity to document and share some of the projects shown at the conference (or other related case study of examples which you can share and which inspire you).

Listed below for now is simply that, a list of some of the people, organizations, and/or projects featured at A Better World by Design. Please choose one or two, and briefly research it. Write at least 300 words about it, with an illustration and web references, and post it on your blog by next Sunday at 9pm.

This exercise will help alert us all to contemporary design solutions we might never have otherwise known about. It will begin an easy to access source of visuals and case studies to inspire. It also will help maximize the critical energy of this conference, and spread the word across the RISD-ID department, and beyond. A Better World by Design ’08 was run by RISD-ID seniors. Please consider helping to continue this initiative by getting involved, in one of many possible ways.


Main site and blog:

A Better World by Design
Blog site:

See speakers, sites, bios, etc for more links

Please also see the class member links (posted on the class site: site) of these conference participants:

Chiu, Megan; Cho, Karen; Clare, Michael; Maruyama, Aya; O’Connor, Jon; Peloquin, Eric; Reilly, Hayden; Van Vleet, Liam; Yi, Boram.
(Please let me know if I missed you and/or you have links you want to share now.)

Afrigadget blog with lots of links and examples: on cell phone business model for worldwide conversion to electric cars. Amazing!!!!!
Triple Bottom Line
John Elkington and SustainAbility
ReUse People of America
Urban Ore (California salvage)
Tibetan Monks & temple out of Heineken bottles
Sugarcane waste (fagus?) and recycled paper
Recycled blue jean denim insulation
Designers Accord
Material Facts
Patagonia & PET recycling
Hermann Miller, incl shipping & packaging in a returnable blanket
Circuit Board options to reduce toxicity
The issue of Certification and Govt Regulation
Nau apparel:
Apple, Google, Whole Foods, Amazon, REI, Caterpillar, Hermann Miller as green companies that position themselves first as effective companies.
Seth Godin, Tribes
TerraCycle cleaning products
Architecture & Design have no Hippocratic Oath: “At least do no harm.”
A Prius is more damaging to build than a Hummer – research this comment (prefab houses)*** Site with many subsites
Jim Collins on Visionary Companies
NASA plants that filter indoor air quality?
Fireplaces that burn denatured alcohol?
Need for home automation systems, an open field?
Janine Benyus, TED talks
Box Fish to Mercedes concept car
John Todd, visionary developer of plant based water treatment systems
Living Machine Systems, now a registered trademark of WWT
Lily Pad as model of cleanliness
Red Sea kelp as model for contact lens & hospital surface germ free
Gecko tape
London Swiss RE building out of glass-like fiber model
Pax Scientific and the nautilus waste water device
Bumps on Blue Whales and increased efficiency on wind turbines and airplane wings
Water Bears and protecting vaccine delivery in 3rd World countries
Termite houses as models for cooling structures
Biomimicry Guild. Business model of institute and guild
Nature’s 100 Best by EO Wilson
GreenBuild in Boston, Nov 08
John Jevins, How to Grow More Vegetables, 1970s
Colin Campbell, China Study on the politics of food and health
Cradle to Cradle
recycle to down-cycle
Corporate compliance & Regulations: EU-ROHS
Design for Disassembly
GrameenPhone – bottom up development
Microfinance and design
MicroTurbines/ microcombines
Decentralized prosperity as a basic aspect of democratic societies?
N/S Korea night lighting as example
Amory Lovens
Cameron Sinclair & Architecture for Humanity
Design Like You Give a Damn, see “best chpt written on history of humanitarian design”, by Kate Sinclair
Solar cookers and pastuerizing water
Biodiesel and solar cookers to rid cooking oilof waste
Integrated solar cooking: solar cooker, rocket cooker, hay box
Production Solar cookers for village businesses: 1000 loaves a day at bakery
And much much more.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Humanitarian Design & Real Needs

The world doesn’t need any more stuff! --- I have to question why I am in ID, designing more stuff!!! Who needs it???”

I have spoken recently with a number of ID students who expressed this concern. The answer, I feel, lies in a broadened sense of “who” and a non-market-driven sense of “needs”.

In fact, your skills are desperately sought to help solve the real problems that inescapably define the lives of millions of your fellow human beings living elsewhere in the world.

For example, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) has released the depressing statistic that there were 67 million refugees and internally displaced persons in the world in 2007.
That works out to be about 1 in 100 people alive today are "of concern" to the UNHCR. and

What can designers do? In 2007, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum held an exhibition, Design for the Other 90%. It began with the premise that 90% of the world’s total population has “little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted; in fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter.” This exhibition, book, and on-going web site hopes to inspire designers to get some perspective on their affluence, and sign on to help solve the real problems that define every day for ”the other 90%”. The website is filled with short lectures, resources, and examples of the design work or prototypes of fellow designers working in this field. I urge you to spend time exploring it.

Design for the Other 90%:

Today our guest lecturer is Dr. Bruce Becker, a Brown professor and first-response disaster relief provider. He will alert you to the problems faced every day in providing refugee and humanitarian relief after a disaster, war, famine, or civil unrest, and the design opportunities that beg to be addressed. He notes also that the principles apply to urban ghettoization in the third world as well. Dr. Becker currently sponsors a Brown/RISD course on Disability, and would welcome the opportunity to pursue collaboration on Humanitarian Relief with RISD-ID students. Dr. Bruce Becker's email address is:

We have talked about the various ways of writing an ID History, and we have often followed the thread that is concerned with design innovation and that “better mousetrap”. This week we look at a contemporary application of this ongoing chapter in ID History: How to solve a real problem in a better way, with your help?

So, if you find yourself asking, "Who needs more stuff?" See if you can't find opportunities to meet real needs by maybe turning your binoculars towards a different horizon.

Assignment due Sunday November 9th by 6pm: Please write and post on your blog a 500 word essay responding to some aspect of the lecture by Dr. Bruce Becker. These issues could include the problem of how designers can best contribute to user groups from extremely different cultural and economic backgrounds, such as refugees in third world countries. Should you do nothing because it might be wrong? What are some examples of positive interventions that could serve as case studies for the future? What do you see as the most important problems in the field of humanitarian design that should be top design priorities? 

I hope that these essays will spur dialogue among yourselves within the department, as well as with Bruce Becker and his colleagues from the field -- certainly a storehouse of information waiting for designers to start acting upon.