Why does an odd impossible design get so much attention?

As a newcomer to ID Im really fascinated with all extraordinary design people are coming up with, but there is one thing I dont get so maybe someone at Core77 could help me sort it out :slight_smile:
As much as I love new ideas and amazing shapes I also realize the limits of design and that you have to evaluate whats possible or not in reality (and in a certain timeframe).
So I get annoyed by all these concept ideas that is so far away from reality that you wont be able to produce them in this lifetime.

But in some way those concepts and its innovators gets praised to the skies.
Why is that?
There almost seem to be a trend to come up with non-feasible ideas nowadays. To me it feels sloppy to present an idea that wont work in reality.
An example of what I mean would be something like a shower that when you walk into it your body is analyzed and if you have any kind deadly disease it will be treated. Or maybe a kitchen device that checks your food inventory and when you run out of milk it orders new that will be teleported to your fridge.
Ive seen a lot of these concepts lately so I have to ask why they are so popular.
Sure it would be awesome and yes I like people who are visualizing the future but I cant understand the proportions of media attention some of these ideas get when you cant even realize them.

Maybe its just me :frowning:

For me, it depends. Sometimes, the idea may be what people like. Sometimes, it’s the form, or the material usage, or the texture, graphical elements or technology.

It also depends on what you mean by “praise to the sky”. Because you have to understand that media doesn’t tell us what we should know. Their main objective is to generate revenue for themselves, therefore they tend to choose eye catchy ones.

I would agree with you that it may be sloppy to present an idea that won’t work in reality, but it is also sloppy to mis-represent your case.
-You give two examples here, neither of which I have seen get “praised to the sky.” I think you have misrepresented the shower idea, and if it’s the same one I saw it was part of a 1 hour design challenge and was not “praised to the sky”

Please give actual examples of ideas that are truly unfeasible that have received a great deal of media attention so we are not purely speculating and can have a real dialogue about this.

While I do not support the promotion of concepts that will never be feasible, in some cases it can be hard to speculate what technology will offer in the future, so this can be sometimes be a hazy line, but in general if there is some science/technological support behind a concept it can go a long way towards plausability.

I think that wether or not they get praised or not, concepts can provoke exploration/experiment/ideation which in the end can lead to innovation, importantly in terms of engineering the solution.

In order to understand if an idea shoud get praised or not, you need to look at the context at which the design was done.

Of course in the end of the day people with different backgrounds and education will all say different things, so just take it with a pinch of salt and try and produce yourself a concept that is both experimental and realistic.

My point was not to pick on anyone therefore I made up
2 really unreasonable examples myself, so they are not
referring to any real projects (I thought that was pretty
obvious so if anyone thought these examples were realistic
Im sorry)

I was more looking for why these kind of projects are so
common cause a lot of times there seem to be really big
amount of time and money put into the presentations,
where do you raise money to develop an idea that will
never be put in production?
Or is this a general part of ID educations or is it common
as marketing for design firms?

Unless you use real examples then your question is unrealistic.

Projects that are very far out there always happen, but are usually BASED around some kind of technology that exists or sort of exists. While it may not be realistic now technology changes so fast that in the future that may not be the case.

Look at the Iphone for example. If you teleported back to 1997 and said “Hey I designed this device, its this big screen that holds all of your music files, downloads movies over radio waves, and can show you satellite pictures of where you are on earth and then search all of those places…”

You’d probably get the same kind of “Well how the hell are you going to store that much data? Thats impossible, it would take hundreds of CD’s to store all that information”

If you’re refering to a couple of crazy student projects that get thrown out there, then you definately aren’t going to see them get wildly praised, and real design consultancies will very rarely take on projects that are that wild.

If you can provide some better examples of horrible projects that recieved huge amounts of praise (which I’m sure will step on some peoples toes) then maybe I’d have a different viewpoint. For almost every wild project I’ve seen any praise is usually met with equal amounts of harsh truth and cynicism.

A general rule of thumb for design is that if you NEVER explore the limits of whats possible, you will never push the boundries of design and technology.

It takes a lot of force (far out thinking) sometimes to break down a door (preconcieved notions) that will then make it much easier to walk through the gateway to see new, real, possibilities that you didn’t know existed on the other side of that door. That unreasonable concept may be what’s needed for that ahah moment where you put 2+2 together.
Carheads, don’t pounce on me because I’m making this next one up to show an example
Lets say that before shock absorbers, engineers had problems with the hard ride on the road with potholes, sore tailbones, etc… They kept trying solutions like changing the wheel materials and diameter to solve the problem to no avail.
Then some kid comes along and says why don’t the cars just use springs instead of wheels so you can jump from place to place, then you hop over the potholes so don’t have to deal with them.
Of course then some engineer type will come over and spout all of the technical impossibilities of that scenario and how absurd it is to think that you can hop place to place and that what the inertia and compression forces required to even think about it would do to the passenger and car, etc…
But then a cunning designer will see the potential value in that absurd spring idea, and come up with integrating the springs with the wheels so that the wheels do kind of jump from place to place so the potholes don’t bother you as much.
Sometimes it’s that absurd “limit pushing” idea that opens the door to the more feasible solution that people couldn’t see because they’re stuck in the rut of doing things the same ol way.

Food packaging is going the way of having rfid chips in everything so that you can potentially walk into the store, grab what you want and walk out and you’ll be charged appropriately. Add in food delivery services that currently exist for the elderly and fridges with interactive displays and that idea of the fridge that can tell when your milk runs out and gets it teleported (delivered) to you may not be so absurd.

Those types of concepts have a place. Of course they’re not meant to be taken literally, but it’s the base notion and what’s between the lines that a good designer learns to read. That’s the same thing you’ll have to do during user interviews/testing. They’re not designers but you should be able to take their absurd ideas, read between the lines, and find what’s valuable about it.

I guess you hate Leonardo da Vinci then.
And you hate Science Fiction films and concept designers like Syd Mead.

Well I guess if you read my post you would understand that I like
visionary people so yes I like Leonardo Da Vinci and Syd Maed.
Find it a little strange that thoose words came from a moderator.
Guess this was the wrong forum to ask a question like this.
Sorry for bringing the subject up.
Over and out!


Fair enough, I missed this part of your post–but it does seem to contradict the first part of your post. …So what you’re really asking is why does the media put more focus on the “impossible visions.”

I think the answer is that we’re captivated by science fiction and the possibilities of a better tomorrow, and that’s what makes it newsworthy. Plus it’s these visions that inspire others to make them possible.

I bet if a designer sketched a Segway in the 1990’s, we’d all say, yeah right–impossible! But then Dean Kamen gave us the technology. Same goes with a lot of things.

Who’s to say what the next “wow” invention will be that challenges all of our assumptions about what’s possible?

re iphone in 97…moors law showed that it would not only be possiable but inevenitable
re leo, all of his stuff was grounded in his direct knowlage of the physics where he got zapped was materials were not avaliable to produce some of them.
re pie in the sky, lots of it is just sloppy wishfull thinking but thats ok because the pretty pictures take up little room.
re scifi, there are 2 kinds “hard” and “soft” hard postulates inventions/innovations that are with in the frame work of known science the other is more or less “spells and magic”. Clarks law is “any highly advanced tech will appear to many as magic” however it is not magic.
re the segway, a bad product is still a bad product no matter when it comes out. The segway is a classic case of falling in love with a tech forgetting the realities of the market.

Aquasealth, I think most designers I know know EXACTLY what you mean by your question. And, I think that I do. This is the feeling I had several years ago when I kept seeing that IDEO shopping cart all over the place. Remember that? I think at the time I was also really jealous of the PR because clearly that idea was possible. I still sort of feel that way about Segway (I know, also possible and maybe just ahead of its time?) My reply is complicated:

  1. I think in almost every industry it is often those practicing on the fringes of the industry that get the attention. Examples: There are thousands of extraodinary actors but which are the ones that are reported on all the time? Are the they best? There are a lot of great attorneys out there but which ones do we hear about all the time? Which books do we hear about all the time. Is Oprah really that much of a literary genius or is it just an appetizing format? You get the idea, not all great designs make great stories.

  2. Often these unproven concepts are used to generate exitement and provide a positive balance to a generally negative collection of daily news. The future is often more exciting than the present.

  3. Logistically it is much easier for designers and engineers to promote an idea rather than a project that is in the works. If it is cool, exciting and doable it is probably protected.

  4. Very few designers have the time and attnetion span required to fully prove out their concepts. I know that the designers I work with have a lot more ideas than they time. Most have little time to show how their ideas could really work. (The first product I ever sketched up was a water powered lawn mower (6th grade) and I have yet to make it work…)

I have 1 example.
the volt, GM’s electric car.

I don’t live in the US and we don’t get much info regarding american cars here in Japan, but from what I’ve read and heard, there’s a whole marketing blitz going on now with the fine prints not yet available for sale.

I don’t think that car got much attention at all over here, in Detroit.

Even if it was overhyped, the Volt is a bad example because it’s not a far out concept.

I honestly can’t think of any ‘far out’ stuff that’s been hyped lately…

Are we living too close to reality? Or has fantasy and reality finally collided?
Where are the Walt Disney’s of our generation?

on the front page of core and ID… sugar dreams and unobtainium

Hey man,
I think that a designer should break out of what´s feasible or not. This way a designer can unleash his creativity.
You know, if someone really believe in your idea, nowadays almost anything can be produced.
Anyway, could you please give me an example of what design were you first talking about?
If you let feasibility dominate your designing process, you will be eaten alive sooner or later.
We are living in the creative era man, don´t let these boring stuff rule your life.
Anyway, this is just my opinion.

To some degree, I think these “pie in the sky” concepts hurt our profession, as they show what designers are capable of thinking, but can’t come to realization. In that way, we’re seen as artists, not as industrial designers. The whole idea of industrial design is to develop products for mass-production. It’s not about creating some wild-a$$ crazy idea that can’t be made, or could only be made one time. Might as well be a starving artist.

I do agree that it is these fringe-designers that get all of the media attention, though I’m sure much of that is because there is some money exchanging hands.

What designers? What concepts/products? And what attention?

Attention from the design community? Attention from the mass public? Popular Science is the one example I can think of off my head that really focuses on pie in the sky kind of stuff, but thats because they’re a science magazine. And even then most of the stuff there is still grounded in reality. I have yet to see anyone praise the design of a teleportation machine.

The Volt isn’t a good example because as was mentioned theres nothing pie in the sky about it. Just because it’s not OUT doesn’t mean its some kind of impossible design. If the car was powered by a nanopowered fusion reactor…then it’d be another story.

Oh teleporting devices…

Ask every kid in Asia and they will tell you about the teleporting door from Doremon. What about the teleport device from Star Trek? Those are hyped more than any design I have seen on the media. We are still seeing mockery skits of the Star Trek version on TV today!

I know we are not talking about fantasy devices from fictional comics or movies, but why aren’t people questioning THOSE blue sky concepts? To me, they offer inspirations.

So I think it depends on what the hype is for. I’d take anything for an inspiration.

Then again, I haven’t seen any of those things being brought up as a hype yet. To me, a hype will be things like the Apple campaigns, or WEB 2.0 discussions etc.

If a hype generates discussions, I don’t see what’s bad about it.

Oh BTW, I have seen proposals similar to the fridge example you’ve raised. However instead of teleporting the milk to you, the fridge makes the order for you and the milk gets delivered to your door. So, depending on how you define “teleport”. If I find a jug of milk appear on my door steps without actively making an order for it , I will feel like it’s being teleported to me.