would someone please put Product back into Design

I have to admit, lately, “Design” bugs the crap out of me.

Core, what the hell is going on? Is it just me or do we need to put the Product back into Design or at a minimum, Industrial? I come back weekly hoping to find some bit of inspiration. Lately it is a bit like eggplant. I can’t stand the stuff but every chance I get I try it, again. And again and again it leaves a bad taste. Never mind that it tastes like my friend Jimmy smelled.
But seriously I come to Core and find what? Design for artists or thought works or design that doesn’t answer any single problem other than fulfilling the dream of looking smart or clever to the Design Community. I find more and more Design for Designers for a big D. This is a tragedy. It is for sure embarrassing. Maybe design for the real world doesn’t make news. Maybe that type of design never makes blogs because it can’t be released due to client NDA’s. Maybe it just doesn’t fit the criteria of who ever is blogging the Design machine to obscurity and white high priced galleries that have no patience for the “lesser thans” (normal consumers). Maybe many new designers can’t recognize great design in products made for users other than the DesignCommunity.
It all depresses me. I lack real inspiration. Inspiration that comes from maturity and perspective. Inspiration that is market or society tested and proven. Inspiration that is grounded in a simple idea, solving a real problem, business or usage or manufacturing in a manner that is both elegant, economical and useful. Note I didn’t include meaningful. People make their own meaning. When we begin to design meaning we short cut the users ability to create their own meaning…imo.

“Design” is turning meaning into propaganda and through its wit and me-so-clevers is driving a wedge between the profession and everyday people and most important, business and government. When design becomes about Design it loses its impact and it no longer serves people who use it.

So I challenge the blog spotters to find something other than one off housewares, conceptual interiors devoid of humanity, ceramic mugs that teach people how to think or hold their cup in a poised manner, carpet scrubbing flip flops for people too lazy to scrub their own floors or any other clever, idealistic, propagandist, conceptual thought piece that can’t be manufactured and has no real market other than “Designers” and those who aspire to be designers.

For god sake it is a diverse profession. Core77 is a powerhouse for the profession. It can be positive. It should be positive. But the last year or so has been more like a mix of exposing the fantasies of academics, students who believe the fantasy and theorist who think they are changing the world. It bums me out. How about a picture of a ladder design or paper shredder or coffeemaker made for a business that makes more than 300 units? Or if out of the ID arena then go to Padagonia or NorthFace or Redwing shoes. Find anything that uses design but that you just don’t think fits the mold of “Design” but please don’t turn into ID magazine!!!

Is there a Core77 for seasoned, senior level designers? One where maturity balances the wide eyed exuberance of youth? One that recognizes that we all work for real clients or companies that make, sell or communicate something???

ID ain’t what it used to be, it’s fractured into a million pieces, and this can be frustrating if you’re interested in tracking one or two sectors…

Media mass-customization would provide one answer: Core could save your blog viewing preferences and filter topics by subject. Creating “tracks” (as with conferences) would be another possibility.

I am a bit frustrated by the focus on end-product rather than process. We need a “HOW” magazine for ID!

Why don’t you ask The Core if you can start posting stuff on the main page?

Vélodesigner: Good timing.

  1. Here’s my devil’s advocate response to you. These one offs and conceptual pieces are really important because they are indications of where we are going or where we could go in terms of both aesthetics and usability.

For example, there was a good post on the Core blog about touch screens the other day. This is an maturing technology that seems ready to burst into everything. Very important. The iPhone is one good example of its use, but the many concepts from Intel and Microsoft etc, are helpful to spur our own creativity about how we can use this technology.

Another example is the DIY seat belt for a back pack strap. This indicates to me that there is still a trend for products re-appropriating existing parts. The lamp made of plastic cups does the same thing.

  1. Back to good timing. You know, I’ve been going down memory lane recently thinking of some of the people that have inspired me creatively. Andy Warhol, Raymond Pettibone, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, etc. I’ve also been thinking about how art has influenced design. For example, before Joe Columbo and Panton created their beautiful and ground breaking plastic furniture, painters and sculptors had already been experimenting with reducing art to basic forms and shapes. In other words, design was a functional use evolved from a form language in visual art.

Back to today. I see about 50% of designed products as being retro. The iPod is retro '60’s Braun. In furniture, '60’s are big. In graphics, I see a lot of stuff that reminds me fabric prints from the '60’s and '70’s. So, that 50% is a re-interpretation of a 40 year old trend that visually originated 60 years ago in the visual arts.

About 40% of design is generic crap not worth discussing. See Blackberry/Segway/Buick.

5% is this “maximalist” trend, as in the Lambo Reventon, KTM bikes, Crest mouth wash bottle and some ceramics I’ve seen on Core. This is interesting trend in that it is different than 90% of the design that is happening, although even here, it is old. It kinda reminds me of some paintings I’ve seen from the '30’s or '40’s.

So basically, where is the art that is pushing our visual envelope? Is ZippyFlounder right…has everything been done? Our we out of ideas? I don’t know.

Thinking about art…what a wasteland that is now. On another forum some professor asked if his student could eat a prototype from a Z corp printer (I’m not kidding). This was his student’s idea of an art project. Not only that, the prof thought it was a really great idea. How am I supposed to be inspired by that?

Velo, I could not possibly agree more. Check out my project if you want to see a product created for the “lesser-thans.”

Since you’re obviously into bikes, you’ll get a kick out of it.

It irked me greatly when I submitted it to Core and was just brushed off. Yet, some of the most ridiculous items make it on the site. It’s basically turned into a one-off, “designery” website full of pretty but useless items that make our profession look little more than 3D artistry.

Or maybe I’m just upset I never got any credit for a project I worked nearly 9 years on.

Great call to action, I agree with the overwhelming amount of one off design in the news lately, not just on core but everywhere.

I would like to continue to hear about some, more significant one offs, but I would like a higher concentration of actual design work popping us. Have you checked out Dexigner.com? they have some good work sometimes, but I usually find the articles lacking, which is ok as long as I am aware of things I should be looking into.

Another area that may be under represented is the group of Industrial Designers who don’t work in a trendy downtown studio, or huge corporate campus. What about the guys and gals who are part of a small team in the back of a factory or warehouse working the inhouse gigs? Lets see some work from those companies.

“Is ZippyFlounder right…has everything been done? Our we out of ideas? I don’t know.” Its not all been “done” but a lot of it has been. The new comes from new materials, new processes because “US” ie humans for the most part are the same folk that made stone arrow points and painted in the caves in france. To adress the origianl poster, I scamper around, gizmoto, PM, PS, custom car blogs, as well as all the science stuff for new stuff. ID is not about new, and core just like ID mag is largly a navel staring excercise or to impress your peers. It is NOT about product. Product centerd disscussion does happen back here, but still largely focused on the appearance not the totalty (and I dont mean “experiance” either) of product from idea though prodution and marketing.

glad to see somebody finaly did that, I wanted to when I was consulting r and d with vetta in the 90’s but the tech was no where close…it was a cool idea.

6ix: great project! That does deserve to be blogged.

I know the feeling… I even unsubscribed from the RSS feed because I just couldn’t take it anymore. In fact, I unsubscribed from all blogs that tried to feature design because non of them actually did that.

OMG bees made a vase! Let’s make this sound cool and call it slow prototyping… And every single blogger out there fell for that one.

6ix - I may have met you, or at least the person who developed a rear view cam for bikes…5 years ago shopping a game-boy-hack cam monitor? That was beyond cool.

As far as the response about art driving design. I love art. I love all of the artists you mentioned. I don’t agree with the influence on design because I don’t agree that design is solely about shape and form. How about usage and economy and manufacturing and well…usage. True I went to a school that focused heavily on the form, fashion and conceptual but it was balanced by reality. That is my point. I consider myself a well rounded designer. I know the history and I understand the value of one-off R and D and art pieces…but that type of design has come to be the face of “Design”. It is ego centric and a bit too full of itself. And most important there is way more to design than style, form or ideas, esp design that is hard to realize because of channels, markets, manufacturing, and end usage requirements. etc. Most of the stuff on Core seems like the easy problems to solve. Shit you can make in your house with stuff you find or can buy at the craft store. That isn’t design.

Art. Fine. History. Fine. Inspiration. Fine. Frivolity and amateurs…no f’n way.

And as far as a light from left over plastic cups. Give me a break. That will be the end of us. It seeks to solve the wrong problem and plays the “I am so smart because I am green and I am making a difference by making people think” card. What a bunch of horse sh*t. It is someone with too much time on their hands. If they want to make a difference they should stop designing. Using tons of crap that people throw out eventually justifies using the crap over and over. …like recycling plastic bottles…it is ok until you have trillions of empty water bottles and a culture that somehow thinks it is ok. The answer isn’t making something else out of them it is helping people to remember that they could use one container over and over again or a simple water fountain like our parents did.

Never mind the seat belt hack…SO WHAT!!!:!!! People have been doing that as long as there have been seat belts… I am just glad someone figured out how to teach others to do it because obviously design school doesn’t teach kids how to make things…much less their own things. God I am mad now. Thanks a lot people.

I hate Designers even more than before.

This topic reminds me of the Nussbaum article Are Designers The Enemy Of Design? I’m sure it pissed a lot of people off but it makes some good points.
I came across this interesting response as well.

“…Sadly, there are still many designers locked in the Bauhaus tradition of designers as heroes: individuals endowed with unique aesthetic sensibility that transcends mere mortal sensibility and creates objects of lasting value, beyond criticism…”

Vélo: I’m sorry that Core didn’t give me better examples this week. I admit, I was pullin’ at straws to make my case there.

But still, I think you missed my point. I’m saying, it seems as though most of the aesthetic design movements evolved out of the visual arts. As every designer must solve aesthetic problems, whereas ergonomics, usability and other issues may not always be implicated: where is the next trend going to emerge?

Lastly, that cup light is probably even worse than you think. I’d bet $20 that the guy buys the cups new, so he’s not even recycling. Not to mention the light will melt if left on for 10 minutes or more. Ha!


I believe that statement that design schools don;t teach people how to make things is slightly true but in a fantastically good way, instead of telling us just how to make more bits of stuff they tell us how to think, innovate, assess and redesign taking a who new holistic view on how we do things. ID isn;t just about products and bits of mass manufatured plastic its about service and experience, systems and interactions. it about enhancing someones experience of living for the better. I can show many bits of desing that are more than just aesthetics and pretty form that have been featured on this blog over the last few months which have inspired me. even my own work which |I hope shows a valid insight into ID at design school level. Medidome Syringe wins NPSA Award - Core77

some 2nd year desing students winning design

how to’s

amazing and interesting interviews

also at the end of the day if all you can be inspired by is other designers then thats very sad to hear. the desings on this even if you don;t like them have inspired you to write about being uninspired, it should push you as a designer to be better and hopefully post something on this site which is “worthy”. The world outside your window is your inspiration whether its urban landscapes, nature, elements or even people.

I think what we sometimes find in design are that there are do-ers and want to do-ers. the do-ers get on with it while the want to do-ers sit, critic and complain about how the stuff is bad without actually doing anything.

These blogs are great for seeing whats happening in the world of design and the cool little ideas but if you need existing design and desingers for your sole inspiration then you’ll never innovate because you are inspired by the end product after all the work has been done or yesterdays thinking.

I guess none of that makes sence but it sort of does to me.

“think, innovate, assess and redesign taking a who new holistic view on how we do things”…yes that is part, however the “do” part is very sadly lacking, its mostly arm waving and “oh somebody will figure it out”. What is lacking is balance, between dreaming and makeing the dream real. Dreaming is easy, drawing is easy, reality is much more complex and rigorious.

Yes but if you look a bit closer to whatis happening in the world people are starting to stop believing alot of these concepts are dreams and there is a massive push to put these things into production. One of the biggest reasons why designers generate concepts are that they are pushing the boundries of what is possible. And with the right investment a lot of these concepts “are” possible even now, yes they would be costly but they are possible. None of the big design firms design for today they are desinging with a 5-10year statergy, and by the time desing students leave university they will be 5years form now.

Great example of the nice concept but its not possible is when Native design were designing the zepplin ipod speakers. THey were told that it was a nice concept but there was nowhere that could manufacture the rear pressed aluminuim. But after they researched and went to speak to manufactures and they found someone who would give it a go and they engineers a special machine to enable them to produce it.

The best expample of dreaming and dream thinking is the latest move towards gesture, touch screen, and augmented reality interactions. can you imagine the people 20 years ago that were designing computer concepts that people could hold in their hand communticate across the globe, pin point their position and all be done by touching and moving across a screen without the need for manual input buttons you would have had the same people saying it was all dreaming and it could never happen and thatit was impossible. now looka t the iphone.

you don;t employ a new designer now because they can desing for today but that they can desiugn and ensure the future. This attitude of desing for the day is the reason why many giant companies liquidated or have come into trouble as they have kept desinging for today and now have products for yesterday. Atari a big expample. Acorn pc’s, linux. even the big boys such as dell have only just started heavily inversting indesign more and more keeping cost to an absolute minium on the desing side is no longer an option becasue the competition is now so strong.

If you go to china you see many replicas of european cars and products, why? beacuase their companies aren;t forward thinking enough to conceptualise the future and can only work with today.

Young designers have neivity that ensures a constant flow of new ideas and ways of working and this is how there is a unique ability to innovate, as they do not have the constrainsts of the “real” world. which are being broken up year on year.

You also need to remeber that desingers are designers not engineers and it is the collaberation of the two which ensure real moves forward.

talk to me when you have been in the buisness for 10 years, got some products to market, when you have dealt with investors, untill then your just “dreaming”.

Cholden: Now you are bringing up a couple more subjects.

Inspiration at work: I think most designers are limited by what inspiration makes it into their work. We are limited by ourselves, trying to find the aesthetic trends that are most effective for our markets and will reinforce the brand image of our clients. We’re also limited by our clients, who have feelings about the market and their brand that may not coincide with what we feel. Therefore, most of what pops out our factories is conservative and watered down.

This is why I mentioned the arts. Although movies, comic books, novels, music, our environment are all going to inspire us. These domains don’t have the same constraints as our clients, so they can often go further and explore new territory. Sometimes they are beautiful, sometimes they are ugly. That’s part of exploring, you don’t know what you’ll find.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is where can we go from here. So much of our art today is the re-use or commentary on previous art. (see the lamp made with cups, or back packs with seat belts) At least to me, it seems as though there aren’t many people exploring the frontier. My question is, have we, as we have done with the planet, just run out of any new places to go or are we not pushing hard enough?

This isn’t an entirely new thought for me.

Part of the reason I’m rather obsessed by the iAesthetic, is it seems like a final destination. Designers have finally convinced the public that modernism is cool. Now what? We’ve succeeded where Gropius, Breuer and van de Rohe failed.

I kind of feel the same about this victory as I do about the Cold War. Where is the peace dividend? The purpose of modernism was to improve the lives of people, preserve the environment and make our world beautiful. Now that it is accepted though, it doesn’t feel like it is doing any of those things. So…now where do we go?

good stuff 9, was a little curt with the puppy, but you fleshed out what I was to lazy to type. Where do we go from here, same as “we” have for 50 years, where our clients direct us. The changes will come to a extent as new materials and processes come up, because as I stated our “tastes” havent really changed, sorta encoded in out dna but our ability to demand/aquire what ever we desire has changed. In the end it will be more of the same, kitche, geck, the whole gammut all based on that persons perception of “cool”.