Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Designing Through A Depression by Allison Arieff

I can't get the link to work, but a great article published in the NY Times.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Money Maker!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Final Thoughts

I did not expect History of ID to be taught the way it did. Writing blogs and timelines in the early part of the semester, I did not see the linear progression of a typical art history course that I often see at RISD. At first I did not like this, as how would I organize the information in my head? In retrospect, I am glad that we were given the ability to explore what interested us personally, and collectively as a class, our blog entries span a great range of ID History.

One of the most commonly recurring issues in question in my work not only in ID History, but in my studio work as well, has been the design process. The design process that one takes in their path to find great design is often more interesting than the final result. This is why we have mid-term and final critiques here at RISD. The way that one arrives at a specific design solution is the sum of every little thing that occured along the way of the semester for a student designer. Whether they sought out the first day, with a very specific design in mind, or meandered through the process to arrive at a unexpected result, the design process is one that varies greatly from person to person. One of the most interesting things I have noticed this semester is the difference between my design process, another peer's process, a veteran designer's process and a faculty design process. In a educational setting, it cannot be denied that we are all influenced by each other, and for me, there has been a range of influences in the design process akin to the number of shades between white and black. I meet some who come up with methodical and regimented design process, some who meander through to a quirky solution, some who have strong concepts and follow through, and some who take inspiration from fine arts and humanitarian and literary source. My rhetorical question of the semester is then:

How should one go about the design process?

I believe that there is no one standard answer to this question, and certain methods may be taught and encouraged, while others may seem to work better for the individual. It is during one's education that they are allowed the freedom to explore the different range of design processes and find the one that is most successful for them. I feel that this "exploration" over the three years in the ID department is one that chimes in with RISD's pride in multidisciplinary study. Unlike other institutions who have one way and one way only of designing, there is a great range of experiences and philosophy here, and it is up to the indivudual to find the path that will lead them to either the quirky smile on a user's first impression, or the heirloom-quality craftsmanship, the true innovation, beautiful form, humanitarian impact, environmental change, high design or whatever he/she embraces and aspires to in their work.

Art and Design

Art and Design

The boundary between fine art and design is one that is of confusing definition for me. Especially at an art/design school, I am subject to the segregation that comes naturally from different interests. First, however, we should take a look at the definition of fine arts and design before we can compare them. Officially at RISD, fine art majors consist of: Sculpture, Printmaking, Photography, Textiles, Jewelry, Glassblowing, Ceramics, and Digital Media. Design majors are a group consisting of Industrial Design, Architecture, Interior Architecture, Graphic Design, Illustration, Landscape Architecture and Apparel Design. What makes these two categories of disciplines different? Aside from the obvious differences in focus, what do we have in common? Every major has lots of work, utilizes studio space, and every major has to pull all nighters. Is there a difference in our work intent? Are there fine arts majors who design better than designers and designers who make better art than fine artists? I am sometimes asked to straddle this fence between design and fine art in the pursuit of relating to others at this institution. As an Industrial Design major, I am being trained to shape my work towards the design end of the spectrum. As I become so involved in my work, I tend to see my peers in other majors of RISD less and less compared to freshman year when all students were grouped randomly. By spending more time in the ID studio, I find myself able to concentrate on my own work more, but am less able to keep up with the work of other majors and see what they have been working on. This type of specialization is great, but I also feel that being in such an environment as RISD, where there are so many different disciplines of art and design, one should take the time to look around and take inspiration from all work being made.

The Campana Brothers, two designers based in São Paulo, Brazil who have been selected as designers of the year by DesignMiami, describe their work in their interview on www.dezeen.com as “An attempt to make function, poetic and poetic a function.” This philosophy fascinated me, as design vocabulary does not typically contain this word. Poetic design is the true expression of a designer’s personal experience and one that can never be replicated by another designer. I found some of their work very poetic, such as the Vermelha chair, made from a steel frame with hand-woven upholstery.
From the Cooper-Hewitt design museum’s collection: “This piece incorporates many aspects of weaving: intertwined threads form the ropes, which are then hand-woven into upholstery. Five hundred meters of red cotton ropes are used to create these random looking loops, but, in reality, there is a structured method in the rather chaotic padding.” This one off piece of furniture ended up being mass-produced as it was seen by the Italian furniture producer , Edra in the mid 90’s. Edra had such strong conviction about producing the chair, they found a way around the hurdles that stand in such a piece.
Another innovative and poetic piece produced was the Favela chairs also produced by the Campana brothers. The concept for this chair was inspired by the local methods of construction of shanty towns – where found and recycled pieces of wood are nailed and tacked together. The imperfections and methods of construction were the feature of this project and it stemmed from a local inspiration.

A Better World By Design Conference

A Better World By Design Conference November 7th-9th, 2008

The first (annual?) Better World By Design Conference was held over the weekend of November 7th thru the 9th at Brown University and The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and was a great success in terms of its ambitious goals accomplished and its student-leadership in planning and excusion. I was not able to participate in the conference myself but was involved in indirect ways and heard about the weekend from fellow students.

I was able to attend the social mixer at the start of the conference, since it was sort of open to the public. At the mixer, I had not yet taken time to research or investigate the conference but I must say that it was inspiring to learn that the head organizer of the conference was a student of the same age as myself. It just goes to show that one person, even a person of our age and locale can start a revolution and one that grew to become a comprehensive conference that brought many great designers and organizers together to talk about design for one weekend.

One project that was highlighted at the conference was an interesting concept in terms of its concept and application. The LivingHomes projects, designed by Ray Kappe and Kieran Timberlake are ready-made homes that are modular for expansion and transport, easily assembled, and constructed in eco-friendly process and material use. “Installation” of these ready-made homes can be as fast as 8 hours, based on the crew available. The idea of having a home built in less than a day is exciting, as one could go to work and come back home with a house built on their property. Bolt on- walls and storage units allow the owner to expand and remodel the home based on their preference and changing needs. Off-site construction translates to less waste materials - 2-5% as opposed to traditional on-site construction, disposing 40% of its construction materials. LivingHomes offer a great looking home (subject to opinion I suppose) at comparable price to traditional home construction and has the abilities to use less energy or even produce its own energy. In the example home, constructed for LivingHomes CEO Steve Glenn, photovoltaic cell panels and solar heating are used to provide energy and climate control along with insulated window panels. Water recycling and rainwater collection tanks allow the owner to irrigate their landscaping and interior foliage with water that is independent of civil water supply.

In an indirect way and miniscule way, I helped out for one of the conference’s exhibits. The RISD Store currently is showing an installation designed by ZAGO: “Nine Planets Wanted”- in which beanbags were created to represent the carbon product from several nations around the globe. Each nation’s carbon footprint in tons was represented to scale. I already knew that the U.S. has a large carbon footprint, but to see it on a scale that I could relate to other nations in a tangible installation was a powerful statement. The beanbags were filled with materials gathered from the Recycling for Rhode Island Education’s (RRIE) recycling center – well known and utilized by the freshman foundation program at RISD. I, helped to drive and shuttle the beanbag stuffing material – which consisted of small foam cylinders which were the byproduct of golf ball packaging. We were able to fill 8 large boxes of the stuffing – which took two trips and bungee-cords to secure to the roof of my station wagon! Driving back we made sure not to take the highway as it would have been quite a scene to see thousands of these small foam pieces across the road. Too bad I did not take photos!

When I look back, this sourcing of materials from a recycled source was a direct translation of the attitude that designers and organizers should look to, as there are always more ecologically friendly ways to go about a project.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Refugee Design

During the lecture in class today, Dr. Bruce Becker informed us to the issues of design that are not commonly attended to by most designers.

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”
—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises

Dr. Becker's lecture was one that was groundshaking for me and many of my classmates, as much of the design that has been ok to practice in the last 50-100 years now needs to address the greater good, the greater population. When I take a look at great design that is from 50 years ago or more, the majority of design that is written in the design historybook is that of high design, or design for the upper crust of the economic spectrum. Is it ok to still design for these user groups? Can a designer's work be only what you want to design, or is that no longer a politically correct option for today's designer? There are so many questions that I have, and it is as if my study in the past two years has been uprooted and turned upside down. I have strong opinions that design should be the expression of an individual. However, the individual poetic expressions of a designer may not solve world hunger and famine, not make life easier for refugees and survivors of natural disasters. I realized through the lecture and the resulting conversations throughout the day that design must be a combination of the two: interest and need. One cannot design well for that he is not passionate about, and socially responsible design requires a need, a problem which is to be addressed.

The journey through design here in the ID department has been a forever changing and blind path for me. What is relevent today in design may not be tomorrow, and needs will change with the coming times ahead. How can one deal with all this change in need?

One inspirational couple that I have come across in my search for design that is accessible to many is that of the two residents,Mikey Sklar and Wendy Tremayne of Green Acre in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The work that this couple does with accessible materials and low-tech construction methods is some that I feel could be used in other applications that are not being explored in situations such as extreme climates and global warming. Their eco-friendly approach of using recycled and natural materials is also one that is ready for those who do not have access to machinery or modern manufacturing.

In this next video, they take used shipping containers and turn them into housing and storage with use of insulation materials and basic supplimentary finishes.

Appropriate Product Usage

A Look at The History of Found Musical Objects – Percussion

Musical Instruments often start out as accidental discoveries, that evolve over time, but their ultimate form as a developed musical instrument was never an intention of the original designer or its original purpose. Here are some quick examples of instruments that have evolved into percussion that is of performance quality.

Cajón – Wooden Box Drum – Peru and Cuba

The Cajón is a wooden box drum, typically consisting of a six-paneled plywood box with one face that is a thinner membrane of wood, and a hole cut on the opposing face for resonance. It is said to have been developed in Peru. African slaves displaced from their homeland once substituted cod shipping crates for their native drums and started the development of the Cajón . Small dressers and drawers were used for the same purpose for a similar instrument in Cuba . Over time, the instrument has evolved from a simple shipping crate into a fine-tuned instrument whose quality is judged by many factors and craftsmanship and beauty have become factors of good Cajón. The Cajón is contemporarily used in “unplugged” performances by western bands that typically use amplifiers and full drum kits.

Plastic Bucket and Water Bottle Drummers – USA

On the streets of many big cities, you will often see a great sight – people who have taken old plastic 5-gallon buckets, shopping carts, large blue water bottles, and trash cans and arrange them into a “drumset” in which they can achieve different tones based on size and volume and resonance of the given container that has been turned upside down. The designer of such packaging probably never took into account the resonance of a given bucket or bottle in his design process.\

Steel Pans – Trinidad

Steel Pans (also known as Steel Drums) originated in the Trinidad, where used oil drums would be hammered into scalloped areas in which individual, tunable tones could be achieved when struck with a bamboo stick. Over the years, this evolution of a simple steel oil barrel into a defined and respected musical form, is so deep-rooted in the history of the region that the sound of such percussion reminds us so.

Average Kid – Everywhere

Every kid had at least one day when he went to the kitchen, got some kitchen utensils and started banging away on mom’s pots and pans on the floor. It is almost natural instinct for children to find other ways of using products because there is not a strictly set standard of how to use a given object, but only that of natural instinct. I think it is a healthy and refreshing design practice to place your product in the hands of a child to see what he does with it.

Spoons – USA

Spoons are a part of American folk music in which two eating spoons are held in opposing directions and struck against the hand and leg to create a percussive sound and has held up in its importance over the years. They now have new spoons that are conjoined at the handle specifically made for playing.