Sunday, November 30, 2008

Industrial Design for me

I have often been asked by people “what is Industrial Design? What do you do as an industrial designer?" I was confused and could not give clear and solid answers. As an Industrial design student, I was seeking for answers to these questions: What aspects of ID intrigued me and what kind of designer do I want to be? What do I aim for? This history of Industrial Design class definitely gave me a direction and why I belong to this department.

Every assignment and lecture inspires me. It gives me new eyes that enable me to see objects in different ways. The last lecture about “art and design” was particularly inspiring. It had given me the answers to many of previous questions I mentioned. The lecture not only reminded me of some projects I have done in RISD, but also the purpose of being here. Before coming to RISD, I studied hotel management in Switzerlandand. I had not been exposed to the world of three demensional design. I came to RISD thinking of going into the fine art department. However, my foundation 3D class opened a new door for me and changed my decision. There was a project using recycled materials innovatively to design a new product. I chose plastic water bottles because they were free and easily accessible. I only used the bases of the used water bottles to make a chandelier. I was intrigued by the transparency of plastic bottles and how light interacted with the bottles. By adding a simple light to my plastic chandelier there was a manipulation of reflections. This project played a crucial role in me becoming a designer. It enabled me to approach ID in a new light. It gave me a new found view on how I percieve objects. My aspects and definition of design have been forever changed. To make a beautiful, functional and emotional product using recycled material never crossed my mind before. It was a transformation of ordinary to innovation. For the first time, I felt the pleasure of making something and I wanted to keep it. Stuart Haygarth’s chandelier reminds me of this project (

Another joyful experience came to me during winter session. I took the “Search for innovative furniture” class, which was pretty much the same process as the foundation 3D class. I chose vinyl tubes and explored them for more than 3 weeks. First, I experimented so many different and complicated things. Then at the final stage I decided to use the material itself and make an organic, functional and expressive lamp through a different way. Innovation to me had always been about new technology and new materials, but this class taught me that innovaton could be achieved by designers using the ordinary and approaching the problem in a new mind set.

User studies are necessary and important to help us develope successful design solutions, but it is not the only approach. There is room in ID for a more emotional, expressive, and fine arts approach. The moment I saw the anemone chair by Campana brothers, I knew what kind of approach I should take towards design. The philosophy and approach they take to design is what I have been seeking for ID. Design for me at this stage in my career is all about taking new approaches of existing, ordinary materials. By using textiles and ID collaboration, I want to show a new range of expressive ID.
Textiles has always been a WOW factor for me. I can not help but to have interests in textiles. It always excites me when I see appealing patterns or colors of fabric. What intrigues me the most in textiles is that you design a pattern and using repetition of that designed pattern make new patterns. This process can create different feelings and a whole new fabric. Somtimes textile designers manipulate patterns so well, that a pattern may not be so apparent to the eye. Good textile designers not only manipulate patterns well, but use different kinds of fabrics with various textures. By applying these skills into a product it can create something really astonishing . This Sushi chair by Campana brothers could be one inspiration with using various colors and texture of fabric.
I want to push fine art, emotional aspects of textiles further and collaborate with ID. I want to not only design patterns, but also manipulate, and overlape fabric in many different ways. Through these techniques I will be able to open a new, wide range of ID. I totally agree with this quote by Campana brothers. “For me design is to bring emotion to being fun, to bring joy to people. Not only fictional form.” “It is that ten attempts to make function poetic and to make poetic functional which is never reachable, sometimes one is in the place of the other. Whenever both put together, at least about fifty and fifty or one tern and two terns in the projects, we make people happy, comfortable, and dreamy.”

I have found all the answers to my questions and doubts. Personally, Industrial Design is more than making it functional and pretty. I want to design products that can inspire and give emotion to people. I want to create products that can move, touch, and communicate with people.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Art and Design

The links Nancy has posted up on our blog really drive and give me a clear idea of where I want to go. While I am going over all the links, I find some designers whom I want to take similar paths. Stuart Haygarth who made a Chandelier with water droplet-shaped light reminds me of foundation year. The three dimension class in the foundation year opens a new door to me. My 3d professor taught us how to use recycling materials to make an object that is absolutely beautiful and useful by exploring materials. I used plastic water bottles to make a chandelier just like Struart Haygarth did. Mine was not as good as his, but I felt this amusement of making something with very ordinary used material turning into a whole new object. The other class I took during the winter session was “search for innovative furniture” without fully knowing what the class is about. We find and choose one material that is common, ordinary, and easily find. I choose Vinyl tubes for transparency. At first I wanted to make a sofa using stainless steel for a structure and covering it with Vinyl tubes. I did not want the chair to be all similar shapes and textures. I wanted something organic and unique but still appeals to people. However, I could not afford the expense, so I tried to make a smaller object, lamp. It was my first delightful experience of designing a product that could express emotion and could be functional as well.

The user studies are necessary and important to help us developing successful design solutions, but it is not the only approach. There is a room in ID for a more emotional, expressive, and fine arts approach. The moment I saw “Anemone Chair” by Compana brothers and their works, I knew what can be my inspiration, what kind of approach I should take, and who could be my mentor. For me exploring different materials, and textile and ID collaboration will be a new range of expressive ID.

Textile always has been wowed me. I can not help to have interests in textile, whenever I see interesting patterns or colors of fabric. What intrigues me the most in textile is that you design patterns and make another patterns by repeating them. This process can create different feelings and a whole new fabric. There are repeated patterns but sometimes textile designers manipulate them so well that they do not seem to be patterns anymore. Not only patterns, but also using different kind of fabric could give various textures and feelings into products.

I want to push fine art, emotional aspects of textile further and collaborate with ID. Not only designing patterns, but also manipulating, and overlapping fabric with many different ways, we are able to open a new, wide range of ID. I agree that a product is more than just a form or function and it needs to give emotion to people, as Campana brothers say. I want to explore more materials, and textile collaboration with ID could enhance possibility to achieve both emotional and functional elements. I could not only imagine myself making a huge sculpture-like chandelier for the runaway, but also making a sofa with new materials. I desire to push these different approaches in ID to design products that inspire and give emotion to users.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

ID and Textile collaboration

Industrial design has given me different views and aspects of seeing objects. I love the fact that ID is very close to users and a broad field that has possibilities to develop and grow. Sophomore ID has taught me very fundamental skills and user studies to be designers. Here again, I felt restricted focusing so much on user groups that becomes too industrial. The user studies are necessary and important to help us developing successful design solutions, but it is not the only approach. There is a room in ID for a more emotional, expressive, and fine arts approach. For me textiles and id collaboration will be a new range of expressive ID.

Textile always has been wowed me. I can’t help to have interests in textile, whenever I see interesting patterns or colors of fabric. What intrigues me the most in textile is that you design patterns and make another pattern by repeating them. This process can create different feelings and a whole new fabric. There are repeated patterns but sometimes textile designers manipulate them so well that it does not seem to be a pattern anymore. The other fact that I am very attached to textile is that it has both very fine art aspects and industrial aspects. Designing patterns and color choice could be a tool to express you as an artist, but at the same time it has to have certain value for production. ID to me is more about production; I took Babson and Olin class which we produce a product with business and engineer chools. Most of time we as designers, have to negotiate and compromise with people and reality. The reality is that the product is worth to invest in or not. This process is a preview of what most of industrial designers will do after graduating schools.

I want to push fine art, emotional aspects of textile further and collaborate with ID. I thnk i will have more advantages of studying and exploring both ID and Textile, beacuse both departments are directly connected with users in different ways, and means. I imagine myself to design unique patterns that will be proper and used for decorating runaway stages which can be seen as an art work. I want to design something that is expressive and emotional by using different materials, colors, and patterns, but also has value for production.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Humanitarian design

Everyone has experiences of moving in and out. I still remember the first day of moving in at RISD. There were so many things I needed to buy for living. The first thing I did was going to the Providence mall and buying everything that I needed. I found myself buying same functional objects again even though I have them. I had a lamp but I found better one later, so I bought it. What does “better” mean to me? For me, I liked the simple design more and it was suited for my room and environment which was my need at that point. We are all different and people have different perspectives, values, lifestyles, and mottos. Therefore they can interpret the meaning of needs based on what I have mentioned above. For example, some people need desk lamps for better light sources, but some might need elegant lamps for aesthetic purposes. They all need lamps but different ones for different reasons. We do not expect to have a desk lamp in our bed room but a bed lamp. Meaning industrial designers have various user groups that we need to study and explore to provide what people want and need.

I have watched a Korean movie, called “Oasis,” is about a brain-injured female falls in love with a criminal. The young actress Prize at the Venice Film Festival went to the actress who was unknown. She got famous because of her excellent performance of being disabled person. People thought that she was not acting but being herself. Her performance was too perfect that it was hard to believe she was absolutely normal. People were curious how she was able to act disabled person as if she was really one of them. The actress had an interview and said that she spent most of her time with real disabled people trying to observe and be like them. She even tided her hands to experience how it feels like not being able to use arms properly. Towards the end of the filming, she felt becoming one of them which made her possible to achieve the Prize and great review.

In the movie, her life would be so much easier if she had a better wheelchair that keeps her back straight and gives her easy transportation. Even a small product like chopsticks, specifically designed for her who can not spread out fingers would make her life easier and better. As Dr. Bruce Becker mentioned in his lecture, refugee require different needs such as portable and easy assembled shelters rather than well constructed houses. Like the actress, even though industrial designers do not know much about other cultures or how refugee live, we should try to study, explore user groups and make the most suitable products for them. With careful observation and exploration still might not be enough for us to fully understand them, and we never will. However this trying process will empower industrial designers to design more practical products for their needs and environment. It is easy to design for everyone, but it is not easy to design for special need users. I believe that industrial designers have power to improve and change the world by designing products for users, regardless of culture, race and others. We just need to keep trying.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Female gendered product

We are living in the world of change. Our needs, trend, fashion, and aspect have been changed and treated by different cultures at different times. Through the times, it is interesting how the meaning and usage of products have been changed.

In present days corset is an emblem of sexual fetishism. Whenever directors, producers want to emphasize female sexual fetishism, they often put a scene of women wearing corsets on TV, movies, and even advertisements. I have never seen or heard men wearing corsets recently. It would be very bizarre and unusual if I hear that. However, corsets were used for aesthetic or medical purposes for both men and women in past. In contrast, modern people think corsets are only for women and they represent sensualism.

The 16th century costume was upheld as a symbol of aristocracy. The corset played a big role of displaying people’s social position, rank, and wealth. By 1800 the corsets were primarily used for a method of supporting the breasts. Through the 1840s, corsets were persisted for Victorian fashion. For women corset mostly emphasizes a curvy figure by reducing waist and exaggerating the bust and hips. In certain period of time (1820-1935) men desired to have hourglass figure as well so they achieved it by wearing corsets. After 1850, men used them and claimed to have corsets for orthopedic and health purposes. People with spinal problems wore them to immobilize and protect their torso. Corsets were recommended for men who were overweight to give them a trimmer figure.

Corsets have been changed along fashion. 19th century,, to accommodate the need for freer movement, a lightweight corset increased interest in women consumers. There was a revival of corsets in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Designers started to use corsets as an item of outerwear rather than underwear. A famous designer, Christian Dior used waist cincher into his designs to give the hourglass figure. In 1920s, corsets became a popular item of outerwear in the fetish subcultures, most notably in BDSM which is almost always eroticized by the participants in some fashion. In 2001 the film “Moulin Rouge,” we could see the actress wore different kinds of corsets which stressed both feminine beauty and sexual attraction.

I believe that designers have power to shift meaning of products and even control people’s behavior. By designing corsets as a female gendered object; with highly wrought details, laces, and feminine colors, shapes, to exaggerate waist and emphasize beauty of women’s curves can attract female consumers encouraging buying them. Contrarily men would naturally think corsets are for women and would not want it for themselves. As a result, it restricts male consumers and discourage of purchasing corsets. Moreover stores, advertisement, packaging and certain markets that designers create and target could affect consumers to create certain images of products as well. For example, advertisement of curvaceous women wearing corsets and Madonna who is often seen as a sex symbol wearing a corset could automatically define a corset as a female gendered product.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Branding power

I had this interesting experience few years ago. I needed to buy anmp3 player and went to a department store in Korea. The clerk was helping previous customers and gave me a sign to wait. While I was waiting, I overheard the conversation between the clerk and other customers who were trying to buy an mp3 player as well. I started to listen carefully to get some more information. The clerk was suggesting one product among the others and gave reasons why it was better than others. The customer seemed to be satisfied with features, functions, design, and reasonable price. However, they hesitated for a while and decided to buy another one which was a well-known brand. The only reason why they did not buy the first one was because it was made by a small venture company. Being a small company, they could not trust how does after- service work and how long might the device last? They did not want to take a risk of buying it because of lack of users’ feedback. They were willing to pay more money than they should just to get a brand. This raises for me a question. Why the brand is so powerful and how does branding work with design?

Josiah Wedgwood, the 18th c British china manufacturer was a visionary entrepreneur because he was one of the first people who understood the power of branding. His strategic essence of a great brand is to earn repeat business and the loyalty by creating trust between the product, the company, and the consumer. Nancy F. Koehn described Josiah Wedgwood’s strategy as “a company it creates distinction, sustainable, defensible, and value-added differentiation” He could read the changes of social hierarchy and bring it to the right consumers. He was well aware of importance of consumers’ feedback, communication, and managed some of the first focus groups on record with gentry. His pineapple and cauliflower china which was very eye-catching and functional is still manufactured. It proves that harmony of branding and good design made Wedgwood one of the best selling china till today.

Two of today’s powerful brands, created in the last 20 years, are LG and Prada. LG is worldwide electronic company and Prada is a high-end fashion brand. In 2007 LG and Prada made a cell phone called “Prada”. It has the outstanding LG technology and the sophisticated minimalism of Prada’s design. Being LG a worldwide electronic company, what would be the benefit to work with Prada? Working with fashion was a new start for LG and electronic industry. Careful study of consumers’ purchasing tendency, LG come up with results that reflects how people tend to purchase products which can stimulate one’s emotion and move one’s mind rather than products which can only give technological advantage, According to this consumers’ trend, under the slogan of “The more LG is in your life, it becomes art”, LG captures consumers’ by integrating art with management. I think it is very interesting and future oriented business strategy. Along with advance of culture, people care more about art and quality of life. Art has become part of our lives. Prada phone is one of LG products combined with art. Not only it creates a new image which consumers have not felt with ordinary cell phones, but also satisfies their emotional desire. This was a new start that gave chance to rethink the image of LG and inform art business of LG. Everyone who knows either LG or Prada would remember Prada cell phone.

The design represents features of Prada but it was neither innovative nor technologically functional. Touch screens have been applied to previous cell phones, and they are getting smaller, thinner, and lighter than ever. Why does Prada cell phone sell? Is it because of the design, brand, or function? LG was able to read the current trend, understand consumers’ need and create a new market which was smart and innovative. Plus, people who acquire this product give a sign of surplus money and could feel that they are living in celebrity-like life when they clearly are not. I think purchasing these high price products fulfill people’s desire: to be like celebrity in a way, and make them buy more. This phenomenon is bad because people who can not afford brand still want to have it. What brand can offer to people is a certain level of quality, service and symbol of wealth. People might think that Prada will guarantee quality of products based on reputation that the company has built within consumers. That is what brand can offer and why people buy brand. Most of consumers do not have professional information which makes them easy to choose brand over others without noticing whether the product is really well designed or not.

I have listed two successful cases of how do branding and marketing make a huge difference in design industry. I know the power of branding and marketing but I believe that without good, innovative, and functional design, no matter how famous the brand is, how smart the marketing strategy is, products lose their purpose and the company would lose their trust from consumers. Wedgwood could be successful because elegant eye-catching design was based on it. LG Prada cell phone’s sophisticated Prada-like design reinforced branding and marketing even stronger.

As a designer I have always thought that a good design should mainly affect on decision making process when purchasing products rather than branding or marketing. The definition of a good design to me is a product which is innovative, well considered, functional, and still manages to remain aesthetically pleasing. More importantly ID designers should produce products that are accessible that appeal to the masses. Then branding and marketing come along to reinforce the products. However, we should not underestimate the power of branding and marketing. If you can not sell well designed products no matter how good they are, they become useless. Marketing drives people’s attention, arises customers’ interest, and make people to buy products. Branding is earning consumers’ trust from the market. Harmony of these three elements is necessary yet the best way to develop ID industry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008