The Good Ol' Days

Every once and a while, I find something like this, and feel grossly inferior to engineers/designers who lived 200 years ago.

If you’re into low-tech, this is your place. This whole magazine is chock full of “doubts on progress and technology”, which will likely put many designers off, but I think there’s a select few near-luddites who share my preference for moving metal instead of electrons.

Do they have an app to go along with the website?


Instead of a website these guys should be publishing an archival bound quarterly publication hand delivered by pony express!

I love to look at engineer’s diagrams back then. Engineers truly had to be artists as well. Think of John Roebling drafting the beautiful lines of the Brooklyn Bridge. Sure he died after a complication of tetanus caused by a ship crushing his foot while he was surveying, and sure his son was crippled due to a severe case of “bends” caused from going too far below sea level to supervise the construction of the caissons and also died trying to complete the project… but the draftings man!

I think they just burn the coordinates of an interesting example of decrepit technology on a chip of wood with a magnifying glass and carrier pigeon it to you once every full moon, and you go there and sketch them for yourself.

And getting your foot crushed by a ship is a better way to die than, say, thrombosis from too much chair time. As for his son, I guess you could say … the pressure got to him.

He could bend, but he couldn’t break.

I’m done.

The thrombosis is going to get me for sure.

Skymall is your friend. :wink:

If you’re into low-tech, this is your place.

Thing is… is wasn’t low tech when it happened. Burning hundreds of thousands of pounds of solid fuel to lift the equivalent of a family SUV into low earth orbit is going to look pretty damned low tech in a hundred years.

For that matter, we still haven’t figured out exactly how Imhotep’s work crews stacked 1M+ blocks of stone into a pyramid.

I was a big fan of BBC’s television series “Seven Wonders of the Industrial World” when it first came out. I haven’t seen it in about a decade, but from memory it had a great look at what it took to do mega-engineering projects 250 years ago.

I like were you’re going with this…

I was just about to start a post on Design Critique/Dialectic/Dialogue…because I feel that there is very little in the world today. And I think that critical analysis in design world is becoming increasingly necessary with a growing world population, increasing pollution and decreasing natural resources. They say that Americans have used up more natural resources then all of the human race in the history of the world…but how would anyone know or care with so many beautiful design distractions on notcot.

We are entering a period of serious global crisis and as someone once said “we’re about to crash, but everyone in the car is too busy cheering at the speedometer”…or maybe at the latest GPS display.

Back to your point, I’m not sure that there have ever been “Good Ol’ Days”, because every time period has its good things and bad things. But we can and should learn about the positive things from the past and not as they say “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. We shouldn’t see the past as inferior and outdated, because in many ways it also provided a higher quality of living than we have today. If anything we should incorporate positive learnings from the past into our new developments and innovations.

Just recently I saw a shoe made with 1 or 2 day old freshly tanned vegetable tanned leather, that had been tanned the traditional way for over 3 months. it was almost like comparing a freshly grilled steak to an old dry one. But how could any designer possibly know about the richness of pre-industrial tanned leather. I think technology has changed many products into fast food equivalents, quality has become quantifiable as a numerical value…price, calories, grams, gigabites, megapixels, mph, horsepower…size matters in today’s society…when really, size isn’t everything and I wonder if there are subtle design points that we designers no longer recognize and miss because of our focus on technology.

*On a side note I wonder if our technology culture also encourages us to quantify our personal relationships…making natural human factors like friendship and love no longer unconditional?

I feel that designers, but maybe society as a whole has stopped being deeply critical about current issues (we allow our countries to got to war, how passive is that?). Maybe because our perception of reality and quality has become so simple and one dimensional, that we are unable to find many faults with society and design. At the same time the amount of fluff and hyperbolic language has increased…maybe to grab our numbed and weak attention. Like flies we seem attracted only to the brightest lights and biggest brands, unable to criticize anything about them. Or maybe most people nowadays especially designers refuse confrontation because they have too much to lose of their personal wealth if they get singled out as “an energy taker”, or “trouble maker”. Maybe they feel that their critical contribution won’t change anything, or maybe they don’t care enough to speak out.

I don’t know what do you guy’s think…Do designers pat each other too much on the back, or is everything good in the design world?

Back again to your point…As designers I think we know very little about the past, besides the aesthetic retro styles…We are taught to think progressively, focusing to the future, so naturally miss many valuable insights. But at least some sources exist like Low-Tech that can introduce us to alternative perspectives…The key I think is to pick up on the essence of Low-Tech and think abstractly to find opportunities and applications.

Years ago I posted an unusual critique, what some might call a rant about footwear design on this very website. Essentially I questioned whether footwear designers are catalysts to pollution? Think about it, when you’re a successful sneaker designer, responsible for production and sales of millions of pairs of technologically advanced shoes, what happens to the literal mountain of all those millions of pairs after 2 years? Most of them will end up contaminating the environment as inorganic matter, right? A reminder that essentially all the pollution and the polluting culture you create and promote today, will be there for your children and grandchildren to pick up and absorb tomorrow. Just ask your parents if the world was cleaner when they were kids?

But industrial life of the 1800’s was also brutal and polluting…there was slavery of the obvious kind and factory workers working under the harshest conditions… Yet outside of the industrial framework local produce was fresh…sure harvests were unpredictable and pests could wipe out entire crops, but we have since learned alternative ways to prevent this from happening. Local furniture makers, tailors and cobblers still existed and made essential products…Sure people owned less, but maybe they were more sociable. Designers didn’t exist in the local economy, but only because the profession hadn’t been invented. I think there are sustainable learnings to be had from the past. But its also up to us as designers to push to have them applied to products and industry…because left to its own devices industry will only think of improving efficiency and reducing costs despite potentially negative social and environmental consequences. Designers are probably the only holistic minds within the industrial process, lets not lose the breath of our creative and critical ability.

My point is this; undoubtedly technology and industry has helped humans advance and overcome many problems and adversities, but too much of anything will poison you. And I think many people/designers feel unable to criticize technology, industry and design and put the brakes on such liberating factors in our society and our professional careers…providing us with money and comfort. But at what cost, what about the long term consequences of this unrestrained, uncriticized industrial/design cultural development? As designers shouldn’t we feel that it is our duty to do the right thing, to be principled and moral, to leave this world a better place and not just a legacy of inorganic trash, or at best a few dusty design souvenirs in vintage shops.

Apparently there was a time when a man’s main aspiration was to be a noble, honest person, above everything else…and now its been said that for most the biggest aspiration is financial. It seems money talks louder than anything, there is talk of hustling, everything is for sale, so many products are exaggerated…our adjectival lexicon is filled with superlative cliches, hyper this, super that, giant, maxi…its as if revenue, entertainment and sensationalism have become of greater importance to design than sense, reason and important problem solving. Is this the case?

Assuming design is about problem solving, on a global, or social/environmental scale how important were the problems which you solved as a designer? Do you feel that you applied your talents fully and in the best ways? And did you solve a problem, or just to offer an alternative solution for a problem that was already solved?

I don’t think its wise to return to the 1800’s when life was indeed harsher, but there are many positive lessons we can learn from history and times that were less technologically advanced than today. I think that without doubt learning about “The Good Ol’ Days” can help us become better and more rounded designers.

Thanks for providing the website link.