The Arduino controlled crane that a fellow student and I produced for our technical assessment has been recognised and published alongside other robotic designs on the ‘GuardianWitness’ website.
I’ve just finished reading Alice Rawsthorn’s book; ‘Hello World: Where Design Meets Life’. This piece of writing puts together a clever, concise and engaging perspective on the history of design to date, by analysing the role and identity of the designer and their on going relationship with society, art and cooperation. I particularly enjoyed the way Rawsthorn explored a broad range of design examples for each topic. For instance, in a chapter titled; ‘What is good design?’, she uses short case-studies about the following topics to illustrate her views: The M16 rifle and The AK-47, Google’s ‘Doodle’ logo, Helvetica and Arial fonts, BP’s logo, the Monobloc chair and the Egg Chair with it’s relationship to the McDonald’s restaurant.
On several occasions, I found myself reflecting on what I’d read, in particular during the chapter ‘So why is so much design bad?’ where the topic of ”designing for other designers’ syndrome’ came up, along with the notion of wanting to be fashionable and the motivation for why we, as individuals design. I think the notion of ‘designing for other designers’ is a particularly interesting subject when you consider it from the perspectives of a student, such as myself, who constantly has the thought of how their design tutors (who themselves are product designers) will react to their work. I agree entirely that all design should be user-centered, but this seems somewhat paradoxical, as it is design tutors, not users who mark students work, which seems to me to fall right into the trap of this ‘syndrome’. Similarly, it is often Senior Product Designers, not the users for whom they design, that employ Junior Designers, again this seems to fall into this same paradox.
Further on in this chapter, Rawsthorn writes about how designers in industry so often have to compromise their designs because of contrasting views of other members of the cooperation that they’re working in. Rawsthorn sites a number of designers who have been ‘gifted’ enough to ‘combine raw talent with the necessary diplomatic skills and strength of will to steer their ideas through corporate bureaucracy’, not least of all the design icon ‘Dieter Rams’. This put me in mind of some of the tutorials we have in university, especially those where on occasion arguments are made by our tutors for us to modify, or reconsider our designs. I now wonder whether this is a test in itself, perhaps a ploy to replicate the likely meetings in industry where part of the team might push a designer to compromise. Could this be an act to see if we have the ‘necessary diplomatic skills and strength’ to continue working down the route we first intended prior to the meeting? Are the tutors perhaps looking for an undergraduate to show the confidence and self motivation to take the risk to try and prove them wrong, just as those like Rams have done already?
On another note, this book has affirmed the notion that the role of the designer is ever changing. We are no longer the people who just solve issues by making things, but also by applying an expertise in communication and problem solving to suggest ideas for solving issues. This is no more clear than in the chapter; ‘What about the other 90%’?’ where Rawsthorn asks us to consider those who are ‘not the richest 10% of the world’s consumers’. It also affirms that the majority of real design issues lie in helping this large majority.
This book has opened my eyes to a wealth of new designers, but one stands out more than others to me personally, and that is the french designer; Mathieu Lehanneur. He is an individual who went against the advice of his tutors and followed his own instincts, which led him to working with the pharmaceutical industry. He developed a range of products which aimed to ‘help people take the correct doses at the right time’. His projects have since been adapted for production, and by now he is a well regarded, highly respected and well acclaimed designer, who works in a number of industries, including medical and pharmaceutical design. He is also a leading example of how the role of a Product Designer is changing to more of a solutions designer, be that product based or otherwise.
The Guardian: ‘ 30 things being 3D printed right now (and none of them are guns)’ – And a Few Thoughts On Where 3D Printing Is Going…Posted: February 1, 2014
I think this article is important as it shows the vast breadth of ideas already being implemented with the use of 3D printing. While this article doesn’t provide masses of detail about each of the projects, it is really interesting to see how many different varieties of companies are already investing in the technology. The relative low costs related with this individual manufacturing process, in so far as it being possible to visualise a design or component on a digital screen, and then so rapidly produce a one off component with relative ease, and low cost, seem to be the most enticing reason for so many large and varied companies getting behind the technology. I do still have some doubts however, while I see national journalism getting behind the technology and backing it, I am not entirely sold on it being the next big thing to change the world of mass manufacture. Whilst there are some definite perks in being able to produce rapid and editable pieces of design to individual consumers, I’m not sure we are yet at a stage where it is commercially viable to think that we can rely on 3D printing for mass production. When we speak of 3D printing in university, we speak in terms of rapid prototyping rather than final production. The perk of having pieces made quickly and relatively cheaply is that we can do it there and then. Look at this list of 30 things in real depth and you realise that nothing on the list is anything that you would ever really likely come in contact with as a high-street consumer, you may choose to have a 3D ‘selfie’ model produced as a one off, but when it comes to something that you might buy for function, and that your neighbour or best friend would also buy, it simply wouldn’t happen. Other production methods are still cheaper, faster and more viable. My concern is that people become too bogged down in how “cool” the technology is, how felxible and expressive it is, and how available it is, instead of its true position in the process of design and manufacture. There is no doubt that currently there is a big buzz and sensation about this technology, which is understandable given how affordable some of the printers, such as the ‘MakerBot Replicators’, are. I think it is exciting in terms of the potential to being able to send these units to remote locations, such as battlefields, or Space, to repair crucial components in restrictive environments, but again these are very isolated cases in which the common consumer is almost certainly not going to find themselves. Given the nature of our current social cultures, where those who can afford to consume do so, with little regard for where things come from, or where they go afterwards, I struggle to see where the crossover is between 3D rapid prototyping and mass marketing and production. Would it be possible for the common man of today to make a shift to producing his own things with his own printer? Would he take his time to re-print damaged things and print his own new products? With this I will make a predicition; I believe that the technology will either expand in such a way that 3D printing eventually replaces the majority of production methods we know of today, and gives us an affordable medium with which to create our own products from home through vast databases of online designs, such as those found on www.thingiverse.com, with then only the most complex and largest (in terms of size not scale) manufacturing processes being left to industry. Or, the 3D printing buzz will slowly die down, with printing technology developments shifting to focus on how technology can better provide engineers and designers with even greater prototyping capabilities, and the tools to produce prototypes which lead to even better products, leaving other production methods to make the final design for the mass market.
The article can be found here, I feel it highlights the importance of this up-and-coming technology to both developed and developing countries. To produce a working prosthesis for £60, which is completely editable, and easily replaced or modified, shows a potential direction for the next developments in social and economical advancement, alongside technology. Could we perhaps see charities getting behind this sort of technological application? What could be the next development, and are there even any restrictions in what could be produced for good or evil?