where is the crazy exploration?

is it just me, or does there seem to be a huge disconnect between the skills and resources of industrial design and massive exploratory budgets? i see fine arts funding wild aesthetic research and science paying for insane innovation; why doesn’t ID demand a similar exploration? i know that certain businesses fund “big idea generation” in-house for their products, but where is the whacky, cross-discipline growth impetus? ID is exploding with new talent and materials and processes; why is there no demand for these skills to be set upon purely new growth. i know… businesses have to turn a profit and idea generation is expensive, but shouldn’t there be some governmental agency or rich entrepreneurs out there who want to use ID’s potential for broader, wilder reachings. i don’t claim to have any specific course in mind for these investigations, but i do feel that the question needs to be asked. where the hell is the money for the crazy?

(whoa. insomnia.)

ID isnt quantifiable. most dont understand ID. tough selling potential when companies need fast feedback with easy to read $ signs. CG mentioned selling Strategic Design. companies i know thinking only 3 years out. long term strategy seems rare. even at some bigger companies. dont know why.

dont hear theres massive budgets for the arts. got examples?

I’m really talking about grants and fellowships for fine artists. the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, for example, distributes over 100 grants a year on a rolling basis reaching $60,000 at a pop. MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies has a rotating group of ten fellows or so who not only get paid for their two year stints, but also receive aid in the form of facilities and scientists of all varieties. you should check out their website; crazy and well-funded aesthetic research. i’m not sure grants and fellowships are the solution for more ID exploration, but at least the fine arts are supported in that way SOMEHOW.

May I point out the average profit for an artist in the US is $5000 a year. Meanwhile the average ID wage is $35k (educated guess). I would argue that we already are being funded well over most artists! As for the large grants…well there are companies like Alessi that hire designers to do totally unecessary projects which tend to push the aesthetic boundaries. It is true though that they are far and few between.

As for planning…most places I talk to are planning less than a year in advance. They may have a loose plan of updating a product further out, but they don’t put any thought into until one year (or less) before launch. This is just the state of the world. Technology is changing, markets are changing (will we soon be designing for China or will they manufacture for us?), consumer taste is changing at an incredible pace. It also seems like things that were traditionally driven by the manufacturer are now being driven by the users. This makes the companies job to forsee what users want in advance…the less the delay the better the chance of success.

Mr-914 has a point

To an artist 60k is a mint, to an experienced designer 60k is nothing, not even enough to cover facilities and expenses for a year, not to mention getting any kind of meaningful models done, prototypes made or a trip to asia in.

There are some great companies that do work up to 10 years out or so…

Nike Explorer Groupand Innovation Kitchen
Mercedes Advanced Design CA/Tokyo
Mitsubishi consumer electrics think tank

They tend to be the biggest of the big companies who need to stay ahead of the curve to stay alive, unless they want to risk the chance of the business sunsetting. You never here about it because their work is ulta confidential, to protect the millions it takes to work that far ahead.

thank you guys for your thoughtful comments. you make excellent points about the innovation within companies and markets. i guess the distinction i was trying to identify is between exploration with a market in mind, like nike’s innovation kitchen, and an exploration that presupposes no quantifiable product at its conclusion. As soon as nike sets its team to the task of invention, they are necessarily designing to produce an idea that nike can sell. the same is true of sony’s think tank; their designers’ ideas have predetermined limitations, like…it can’t be made of jell-o and it has to involve electric current because it will ultimately be a SONY product. i guess i’m looking for the place where the skills of the designer are being used for truly lateral innovation independant of any market. there are well-funded lost corners in the basements of MIT where researchers are investigating things like carbon filament elevators to space (it’s true) and weather control (see for yourselves.) there is no market and yet there is strong innovation for just the advancement of science’s potential. $60,000 is not a fortune, it’s true, but at least fine arts grants exist and are being used to just plain explore. it just seems a waste of the newly-broadening capabilities of modern design to see them sequestered to strictly saleable products. what else is design capable of, and why is there no money out there to find out?

great point, I see where you are going.

I think design is kind of the love child between art and science. We are not celebrated much in the Met, and we don’t have the power to say ‘this is in the pursuit of science’ and sound like we are on a mission from god. This mystique around art and science lets them get away with more, in my own opinion.

What we do have is a much stronger, if invisible, tie to real people, consumers, users, whatever you want to call them, which is WHY we get paid bucks from companies directy to make them more profitible.

There was a day where someone Like Leonadro Davinci could be working on the Mona Lisa for a rich client like the Medici family, designing millitary fortesses for his home city-state- and trying to figure out flying machines on the side. Those days of Artist/scientist are over though, the feilds have specialized and elevated themselves out of the public realm to the point where the only way an artist can make real money is if the government props him up, and the only way a scientest can make is in a nutty professor lab at MIT (over generalized of course)

This left a huge void for people creative, kind of like artists, yet with a technical penchant as well, with both left and right sides of the brain firing, but not fully…That’s us. The cool thing is that because we are tied to both industry and people we have more opportunities to change the cultural landscape, think about it!

It could change, but I think it might bite if it did.

my $.02, probably all wrong though so don’t be too hard on me

There are plenty of “Labs” out there doing R&D research. I think what I hear you saying is that you wish there were more DESIGN labs.

I think there are several reasons you don’t see them:

    1. Most designers chose their profession specifically because they want to produce actual products for the marketplace
  1. Design is about solving problems. It’s what fundamentally differentiates it from art

  2. There are precious-few corporations large enough to fund such a Lab, and only a very-precious-few of them who view design as being so strategic to their business as to be worth the investment

  3. There just aren’t that many designers to begin with (I’ve never worked anywhere that had a “full” design staff–there is always more need than supply.)

  4. Designers already have a “lab” option–it’s called an MFA!

so “CG,” i wish you could have read the whole thread before responding to the initial topic entry, but anyway, it sounds like you’ve got design pegged in a pretty cozy pen. you must sleep well at night.

and “YO,” i agree with your evaluation of the designer’s unique position between artists and scientists. That the designer can innovate FOR the consumer and alter the “cultural landscape,” is certainly a new and special responsibility. i respect this skill and position you describe so much, that i think there should be money out there to plumb its full potential outside of the constraints of any market agenda. this has, of course, never happened, but it’s nothing a few million dollars couldn’t change.

i’ll go get my checkbook.


It is something worth pitching but to who…

Outside of market constraints, so industry funding is out.

The government, please, have you riden Amtrack lately? I would want to have to answer to some design oversight counsul.

Wealthy benifactor, could work. We should start working on Bill Gates kids.

I think the closest thing in design would be the Auto shows, and student competitions. Here it has the industry connection, but purely for PR so design is left to it’s own devices.

How about a product concept show?

Anyway, when you find you’re sketch book sign me up.