Enemies of design

Why is it that Italian and German philosophy/behaviour within design has been so successful and remains so?

What is at the root of your past few questions? I think it would further the discussion to move past national stereotypes.

Is it Italian and German?

Or is it Logic/Method based, versus Emotive/Intuitive based?

This is the split in the industry since the beginning. Loewy and Teague vs Eames and Dreyfus. No nation owns it.

Define success.

I think designers in American companies have more influence, in general, than in Europe. It’s kind of a view point. American design is working with marketing to sell product and is therefore integral in the company. A lot of European design is treated like art. Something the boss will buy, but they don’t need.

However, if you mean influence amongst designers, I would agree. I think every designer has a picture of something by Braun or a Ferrari or Alessi products at their desk. Probably very few designers have a Rubbermaid clothes basket at their desk.

I want to note, I’m speaking in general. I’ve noticed, for example, that Decathlon in France seems to be very design driven in an American sense. Feel free to flame, but I’m beginning to feel that Apple is using design more and more in a European sense. Although, they’ve found a way to turn that into a really good marketing advantage.

as designers we have to categorize things… Categorizing culuture borderlines steriotypes and those classifications can be funny, negative or even prejudice. Thats why I like this conversation for classifications so much…

Germans are very process driven and the Italians are so passionate. Both cultures have different forms that are depicted as pleasing or beautiful. One could almost guess the nationality of the form sitting on the shelf.

Italians i think are form driven and Germans are process driven.

Americans are cost driven

Honda has a design center north of Milano I think?

Is European a little to broad or is that reference for European from a North American point of view.

Rant answered with a rant:

Whenever someone makes a post like this, it always comes off as sour grapes…

“I wanted to be a car designer but…turns out I didn’t build the necessary skill base and now I’m going to go off”

This has been hashed and re hashed on here about 456,022 times. I think the general consensus on these boards, and in most of the industry, is that sketching and rendering are communications tools. They can communicate a bad idea just as easily as a good idea. In a battle of the sketches, a great sketch of a bad idea might beat a bad sketch of a good idea… so just make sure you sketch your good ideas well, and leave the bad ideas off the presentation.

It is one of the core communication tools of a good designer designer and it is the responsibility to the the designer to use it properly. You can like it or not, point to bad sketches by good designer, and wine endlessly, but it doesn’t change these realities.

Check out some of this reading:

Sketching is not an enemy of design. Lack of vision is.

I think a lot of us agree with YO here. It always confuses the hell out of me when I read/hear someone complain about how no one will give them design work and then say that they can’t draw. How do you expect to be a designer without sketching? Isn’t that why we become designers in the first place? I know I have been drawing sense I could pick-up a crayon an have always said that I was going to be an Architect or a designer.

To this point I think that computers in a way have started to be the enemy of design. Maybe not design itself but defiantly the design process. More and more people have started to think that they can jump straight to the computer and none of the hands on work is need. This includes sketching, breadboard models, brainstorming on a white board, or even simple napkin sketches. I think seeing the Ol’timers do these hands on work is what made us want to be designers in the first place.

My $0.02.

Design is a human endeavor, anyone attempting or fostering design is not an enemy of design, no matter how weak or strong the skillset. Enemies of design are those that resist change and progress, and even then, enemy is a strong word for them.

German/Italian deign is far more popular and recognized within the “design community” than throughout all of humanity, we should get over ourselves so we can promote design efforts not define them.

“computer is the enemy of design”

A bit of gold in a deserted thread.
true in more ways than you may have
thought of.

I am sorry for all the children who
don’t have to digg the dirt anymore.

I can see Variant’s point, to an extent: a good idea should always be valued more than a good sketch of a bad idea. Hell, I’ve watched people (myself included!) pour tons and tons of effort into getting a beautiful rendering of a project…only to have it torn apart on the critique wall because the design itself would maim the user or somesuch. Luckily that’s what school’s for ;p

Having said that, I have to give credit to Yo though–idealistic fantasies aside, reality is that you need both skill sets if you want to get a second look in certain industries.

And as far as auto’s are concerned, yes style and presentation have taken a very predominant position in their design process today–but is that the result of artsy-fartsy designers or of the market itself?

Style can sell a terrible car just as easily as it can cripple a brilliantly made one, so why is it surprising that some of that mentality is being echoed in the hiring process? “We want our new guy to have good ideas, of course, but it’d be better if he can wrap those ideas in a package that I can get past the boss, and that can sell once they hit the market.” Besides, who would you hire, guy A who looks like he can do one thing well, or guy B who you think can do that and three other things?

Variant, I think you are confusing the ability of being able to draw with being an artist.

Unfortunately, our culture teaches us that we need to have a “special talent” or to be an “artist”, in order to be able to draw. Kids get this ridiculous idea in their head that they can’t draw, and they give up, but that just isn’t true.

Basic, descriptive drawing is a skill that can be learned. Almost everybody can be taught to use their hands and a pencil or marker to draw shapes in space using perspective and light and shadow. It is actually more of a “thinking” and “seeing” skill, rather than a hand skill. Yes, some people seem to have an innate gift for it, and their drawings may always possess a special something that yours (or mine, for that matter!) will always lack, but basic drawing is no mystery and is definitely within the reach of the average person, just like tying one’s shoes.

Actually, the bigger issue for designers is that of presentation. I struggled with this myself when I was in school - I thought I needed to be able to draw in a certain “ID style”, and for the life of me I couldn’t nail it (um, actually I never liked it, and I still don’t - but that’s another story).

Fortunately, when I got out of school, it occurred to me that the most important thing was to get my idea across as clearly as I could, and that THERE WERE NO RULES about how to do it. A whole new world opened right in front of me - I didn’t have to make sexy ID drawings if I didn’t want to - I could work in whatever way I felt most comfortable - in a style I enjoyed and using the tools I enjoyed - as long my presentation was compelling in some way and that people could understand what I was trying to communicate. Suddenly I LOVED drawing, and a few years later I was well respected for my presentation skills at the company where I worked. No small irony! I confess that during those days there were times when I sat at my desk, marker in hand and thought, “Hah! If they could only see me now!”


New years resolution for all of us: Stop making beautiful drawings of bad ideas, and stop making horrible drawings of good ideas!

One thing a few choice professors and upperclassmen made me realize: there is no such thing as “natural talent” when it comes to drawing. There is only practice and the ability to listen to and learn from critique. “Natural talent” is just a lie we’ve come up with to make ourselves feel better when we see someone we think is better than us.

Just wanted to point out that Gordon Murray was the technical director for the Mclaren F1 team before he was ever a “designer.” He’s an engineer and has no formal design training at all. Hence his drawing skills suck, just like mine. And trying to follow his career path today would be pretty much impossible.

Also, he’s a brilliant engineer, but I’m not sure how much “design” (what we used to call styling) he’s been responsible for. I know Peter Stevens did the Mclaren F1, not sure who did the LCC Rocket.

This reminds me of a presentation given by Sir Ken Robinson at the IDSA conference in San Francisco a couple of years ago. He gave an hour long presentation on creativity. His point was that we are all born with the sense or skill to be creative, and that we are basically taught to stop thinking creatively and start thinking logically through school as we get older.

One of the statements that he made that really made me think was that when we are in the first years of school one of the tools that you always bring to school is crayons and pencils to draw with. There is art class and at least an hour out of the day is spent drawing and just being creative. As we get older this changes as most of our time is spent on academics being English, math, science, etc… He was not saying that these are not important skills to have but that the creative skills are more or less deemed unimportant later on in life.

This goes with your point that there is no real “natural talent” just there are some of us who choose to keep doing it and practice it more than others.

I still think there’s a certain amount of biology involved.

Bah. Not unless it’s a crippling genetic disorder that prevents you from holding a pen.

“Nurture” might be a much more likely culprit. I’ve met a handful of people who’s parents had them drawing before they had them walking, and I’ve met many [more] people who weren’t really exposed to anything like that until mid or late high school. Guess who’s a much stronger sketcher?

Does that mean the ones with the head start were born with a predisposition towards arts and design? Are the late bloomers less creative, or lacking in the coordination required to move a pen as well? Could they never be as “good,” given the same experiences and opportunities?

Well you could probably argue it both ways, and until some geneticists start looking into this sort of thing I honestly couldn’t be positive one way or the other. Just basing it on the people I’ve met and what I know of their backgrounds, though, I’m banking on biology playing a minor to nonexistent role.

Variant: Ian Callum was an ace with traditional media and a blank sheet of paper when he was at the RCA.

Scott: Gordon Murray did the Rocket.

I think there is a predisposition in some the pulls them to keep at it, but not a latent out of the womb understanding of line weight and perspective.

Norman Barnsotone would agree with you. He considers the very word talent an insult. It degrades the nights you didn’t go out with friends, and spent slaving away to get better. We had a "talent in our class. He could draw anything on command. The one I remember the most was Megatron, standing on Optimus Prime’s head drinking a bud, perfectly rendered, in about 45 minutes… turned out his mom was an Art Teacher and he drew everyday all growing up. Most of us stop that around 6 or 7 when we start to realize some of the other kids are better (more “talented”) than us. Those that worked harder at it, continue to work harder at it.

As pointed out, the ability to sketch DOES NOT equal the ability to design! The ability to sketch DOES equal the ability to rapidly communicate a design in a compelling manner. Big difference, but still very important.

I second this (not to rehash previous threads of “is sketching important”), but do remember a first year professor saying this exact same thing. he likened it to reading and writing. While some may have a predisposition to it (sketching) or be faster to take it up, it really is something that anyone can learn with practice. Sure, like writing, there is still some skill involved, but like writing the creativity is in the content, not the mechanical practice of the exercise. Sketching anyone can do. Design is another story.


Agreed. One of my profs likes this analogy: “Sketching is like learning another language. Everybody understands the language but not everybody can speak it.” He goes on to describe the line as the only letter in the sketching alphabet.