This is more of a philosophical contemplation I've been having recently.
I come from a fairly practical background as a woodworker (10 yrs). Recently, after my graduation from design school, I made a big change and started a company with a few others that is now developing a new office chair. I knew this would require me to learn completely new skills and knowledge, but I never felt discouraged about that. On the contrary, I know this feels right because in some way this kind of project represents to me a kind of pinnacle of traditional, practical industrial design, and that is a very interesting prospect to me. It's the perfect blend of physical design work and user research.
I've only begun to understand the magnitude of what we're up against in our venture. It seems I have to learn so much in a very small timeframe only about business... But I try to convince myself and others to keep it simple and focus on the product. We don't have to, and shouldn't, do everything ourselves.
The primary reason I gave up my woodworking career was that the whole industry here in Finland has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo and is now just barely getting by. I compare it to the car industry in the States, because back in the days, as some of you may know, furniture used to be a big chuck of our GNP. No more. When the industry can't provide, it's time to move on.
So after my "career move", I've been thinking alot about the state of Product Design now and in the future. Like the woodworking industry, it seems there aren't many experienced ergonomic chair designers here either. Most of them seem to be in the States or Central Europe. And I'm wondering how this will affect our ability to create a genuinely good product. Eventually we will need professional help as none of us have the knowledge and experience to design and build this chair to our standards. But I also want a tight partnership that I can learn from and improve on a personal level.
I read [too much] alot of articles and books about design, and most of them tend to focus on the more abstract concepts, like service design, design leadership, -thinking, -research etc. They are interesting and big segments, but as more and more designers pivot to them, are we losing valuable traditional product design knowledge along the way?
There's a lot of talk of other global markets catching up and even surpassing western design capabilities. How will AI affect the product designer profession? I remember reading about how Apple is struggling to find talented product designers. You know, the ones who not only make cool sketches and renderings but also understand the materials and how to manipulate them to their will, physically. Is the practical designer going extinct?
I think I'd like to do this for as long as I can but given my track record, I'm a bit worried what the future will hold. I guess I'm not a very dynamic person and I'm just not very enthusiastic about the idea of splitting my career up in 10 year intervals. Call it old school, but I'd rather focus on perfecting my skills.
What do you think?
Last edited by super-panda
on February 21st, 2017, 9:17 am, edited 1 time in total.