Monday, December 1, 2008

Looking Back

            Why did I choose Industrial Design as the subject of study for four years? Something about making stuff, designing cell phones, and being at design school are what come to mind when I look back on myself in senior year of high school. But as I trace my steps through what has been my undergraduate journey so far, I have come to realize it has become much more than just cell phones, so much more than just “making stuff”, and has enriched my experience of “being at design school”.

            I came into this major thinking I would be designing mp3 players, cell phones, and other personal electronics. Some of that hasn’t changed; I can still see myself working at Sony, Apple, LG designing the newest cell phone or iPod. It used to be just for the sake of making a cool looking object, something that has 100% WOW factor. But I have learned through my time in the ID department that product design is much more than making cool toys. It involves much consideration and investigation into the user that will be interacting with the object I design, something I hardly thought about before. Designing for someone has 

            3D Design was one of my favorite courses during foundation year. Creating art that was more than just lines and colors on paper excited me, and still excites me to date. One of the main reasons I chose to study ID was that I would be able to “make stuff”. Now, after 1 ½ years in the department, “making stuff” has gone from a literal definition to a

 ( in progress...)



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roomba Cat!

Here is my response to this past Monday's lecture.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

art vs design

            Throughout the earlier part of my college life it would not be irregular to find myself immersed in a conversation where I would be asked, “Where do you go to school?” I would always reply initially with, “Oh, I go to art school”. But looking back on the past few semesters, I find myself replying, “I go to design school”. What made me make that distinction, I don’t really know! I think design sounds cooler, and more modern. But is that really the only reason?

Design is a form of Art, but not all Art can be called Design. A Van Gogh would be called a work of art, but would it be called a product of design? Designed objects are created to serve a specific function or purpose. In response, one might say that Impressionist artists “designed” their paintings to express their emotions and show their personality. But I feel like it needs to be taken more literally, at a more basic level. The life of a designed object is planned from the start.  All aspects of the possible functions and purposes for the object, may it be an actual product or an intangible service design, are taken into account in the design of the object. That is what makes it design. A work of art does not necessarily need to have such a purpose in mind. Sure it will have a purpose, but not one that is so specifically planned out to serve a specific function.

            Having said this, there exists today objects and works that delve into both the realms of Art and Design simultaneously. One such object is “Urban Vinyl”, or Designer Toys. These objects are what their names imply: toys. Toys that were designed to be toys, to serve the purpose of being a collectible object, that may have certain functions pertaining to movable parts, accessories, etc. But the Designers that design these toys take a different approach that that of the designer of the hottest new action figure at Toys’R’Us. The designers work to make these toys as individual and unique as an impressionist painting. They are in themselves, works of Art, but at the same time service the purpose of a designed object: in this case, a toy. 

            I classify myself as a designer, not an artist. I may strive to be artistic in my designs, but ultimately I am a designer. Designers take Art to the next level, where it is no longer just an expression of thought or representation. Not to say that Designers are greater beings than Artists, but in terms of process, Designers take an additional step in the process.   

Sunday, November 16, 2008


last weekend, i volunteered a bit of my time helping out at “a better world by design”, a student organized conference at brown. on sunday, i attended the last keynote presentation of the conference, by iqbal quadir, the founder of grameenPhone.

 grameenphone was started with the idea in mind that you shouldn’t have to be wealthy to be granted access to telephone service. quadir’s vision was to create universal access to telephone service in bangladesh, mainly aimed at the poor, rural communities. his philosophy was that we shouldn’t be sending aid to countries in the form of food, first aid, and everything else we are currently doing, but instead, the big companies of the world should put their effort into developing those poor countries. then, out of the support and money that companies put into these poor countries, they will in time improve and grow out of poverty. quadir made a point that we should look back to history and follow the examples that have been set before us, to look at nations that prospered and grew, while also taking note of the ones that fell. by looking at the reasons and causes for the fate of many of these societies of the past, quadir concluded that intervention of the rich will be the biggest form of support we can provide for poor countries.

quadir started grameenphone  in 1997, and since then has become the largest mobile phone company in Bangladesh, with more than 20 million customers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

design for humanity

diversity is something we are coming to see more and more of in today’s society. with so many people coming into the states from all over the world each day, its not hard to explore around any city and find pockets of culturally rich areas, cultures that are not native to america. here at risd, or probably any other major design school in the us, diversity is no stranger. a large international student acceptance rate brings in people from all over the world, people from different backgrounds, different countries. these students have come here to learn the skills necessary to pursue a career doing something that they enjoy: art and design. perhaps some of these students wish to take back with them to their country what they have learned here, to help and change their country for the better!


i believe that one step we can take as designers, in designing for humanity, is to first start with our roots. since, for the most part, we are familiar with our home countries, where we were born, where we grew up, and where perhaps we will spend the rest of our lives. the best way to learn about an area’s needs, people, daily lives, etc. is to have actually spent time living there. rather than spend resources trying to learn about a new country so we can help out, why don’t we start with a place where we already know everything about, a place we call home? here at risd, a melting pot of so many designers from so many cultural backgrounds, we are in a great place to design for humanity.  using what we learn here at risd, learning from all the great resources that we have here at this institution, we can take them and bring them back to our homes to apply it. being the people that actually live in the country/state/city we are trying to make change in, we are the best and most effective people to get the job done. i am not saying that you should ONLY design for your own point of origin, but  just that one place that you could start, that would be effective and purposeful, is the culture that you come from. now being at risd, where there is such a diverse cultural background, collaboration is also a very powerful and effective strategy that can be implemented. sharing with others that may have similar design problems and ideas would further fuel and help develop the process in your own design.


this may not apply to everybody, perhaps the area where you are from has enough resources and your skills are much needed elsewhere. but if it applies, then the best place for a designer to start designing for change, for humanity, is right where they came from, their home.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

designing meaning

products can be designed with an intentional meaning and identity. designers can have a specific identity and meaning of a product in mind when they design it. products such as gilette’s venus line which features razors for women. when designing these products, gilette takes into account every aspect of the shaving experience for women. the venus products were designed specifically for how and where women shave. the ergonomically designed rubber handles give a better grip when wet in the shower. different configurations of blades and blade housings take into account for different skin types, and also the desired after effect. aesthetically, these products also take on a much more feminine appearance than those designed for males. soft colors and smooth lines reflect feminine aspects and create appeal for the targeted user group. this design process proves that products can be and are sometimes designed with a very gender specific identity in mind.

Although products may be designed with a specific identity and meaning, that may or may not contribute to the final identity of the product that is created by the user. Sure, a razor may be designed with feminine colors and functions that serve the female specifically, but a male could easily take the same product and use it for their everyday use as well. There is nothing a designer can do to lock down the identity and meaning of a product and set it in stone. it may be intentional in the design, but the end product identity is all up to the user.  especially in today’s society, where almost all forms of the norm have been challenged and changed in one way or another, a designer cannot expect every user of his/her product to be used in the exact context that he/she had in mind when designing the product. the variation in human personality can create and see uses for products that the original designer may not have even remotely considered.

we are also in a time where material sustainability and environmental factors are causing us to delve deeper into design problems that were not considered as much in the past. this mindset will also create the opportunity to look at existing products and create new uses for them to extend their product life and usability. some of these redesign strategies may involve a recycling of the product, and resulting in the same product being products for the same uses. but this could also lead to the development of completely new uses for products that will extend their life, or take advantage of the materials used and create a new product entirely. 

products may or may not be designed with an identity in mind. it is up to the designer to include this in their design process. but whatever the end result may be of that process, whatever identity the designer had in mind to the product, the user has the final say in creating identity and meaning for the product. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

where we have been

going back to my example of "dealing with the passed/past", the sensacell led floor has intrigued me in ways that go beyond the visual. on the first, most obvious level, it is a technologically innovative creation, a floor that responds to the users that walk on it. this interaction brings this device into a realm that goes beyond that of a typical electronic device or appliance. The interaction between the user and the floor itself has already created a relationship between the two sides, an awareness of each other. the ‘digital footprints’ are an interesting play on an older concept: footprints, which were originally thought of as a more organic element that exists in nature, have now been artificially created in digital form. Yet, users still experience a very natural event as the footprints illuminate and fade away slowly as they trail behind.


sensacell has reminded me of how we are constantly trying to reinvent the past. the new technologies that have been/are being developed today are simply new ways of doing the same tasks that we have been doing since the beginning of history. the computer is just a new way of organizing and storing information, something that was originally done with pencil and paper. the automobile takes the place of human-powered vehicles that used to be the only means of transportation from place to place. the led is a new take on the candle, still serving the purpose of providing a source of light, but in a more efficient and longer lasting way. it is interesting to look back on the mindset of designers and inventors now, compared to  that of history. the cause for the desire to invent these technologies was that there was none existing in the first place! the designers of the past were creating these ideas from scratch. looking at designers today however, the mindset is a bit different. all of the technologies in question exist already, and it has simply become a matter of reinventing the wheel. a newer car, a faster computer, a brighter light: these are examples of what we see all around us today. everybody is revisiting the past and trying to build it better. the sensacell reflects this idea. users walk on the surface, and these digital footprints appear. In addition to literally reminding the user of where they have been, one can take the concept further as a a reminder of where we have been as the human race. we leave these “footprints” in history, we have “left our mark” in time. but the sensacell is just a newer, modern way of displaying the same information. the user has taken the initiative to step onto the sensacell, and has made a few steps, and seen the result. The user has seen what their actions have caused, in the form of digital footprints. but now, what else is there to do but to keep moving forward and cross the floor? the user will continue walking across the led floor, and the same event will occur every time. the same, newer way of accomplishing the same task.  this is a good reminder to us that we as designers should not be satisfied with continuing this trend of reinventing the past. sure there are some areas that need more thought and reinventing. let those come about naturally. but as modern designers we should be seeking to create new ideas and concepts, those that have never been seen or heard of before. In today’s technological world, it seems like everything is already in existence, and that the only choice is to reinvent the old. but that obstacle should be the driving force for an even stronger desire to break of out this cycle of reinventing the past and to create something new.

the sensacell led floor starts out with just the 250 square foot floor surface. but perhaps that is just the beginning. my expansion of the sensacell concept would include a bunch of 1’x1’ square cubes that have the same led surface on each side, reacting to touch when users go to pick up the cubes. the cubes would be scattered all over the floor, and would react differently according to what the user decides to do with it. perhaps the cubes would be stacked on top of each other – this would cause the cubes color to change. the body temperature of the user holding the cube would case the intensity of the cube’s color to fluctuate accordingly. there would also be more than one sensacell floor, and each floor would also cause a change in the cube’s behavior. so the user could take a cube to different floors and see the different results caused by their action. what users take away from my version of the sensacell would hopefully be one that they have the potential to create new things. everywhere they travel within the sensacell, the concept of the digital footprints will follow them, constantly reminding them of where they have been. but the cubes will provide the ability to change the existing environment with direct interaction. users will feel that they have the ability to effectively and drastically change what is already existing with their own personal actions.


this is the approach that we should have as modern designers. be  aware of what’s around us, what has been around us and where we have been. let that be a reminder as we strive to move forward, and be more aware of where we are going. we should seek not to reinvent but to create!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

functionalism as a theory of form

simplicity has become a popular and seemingly more necessary concept in modern design. choice of materials plays a big role in this concept, where a designer will take into account the availability of a material, the structural properties, how easily it is manipulated, the after life of the material and so on. the following 5 chair designs are some that i feel exemplify this concept of simplicity in furniture design. simplicity that takes into account both the aesthetic and functional qualities of a material. 

tal gur's "sturdy straws chair" 2002 • standard plastic drinking straws are packed together in a wooden form. a heated panel is applied to the side of the chair, melting the ends of the straws rigidly in place. typically, about 15,000 drinking straws are used in a single chair. this design transforms ready-made materials that are originally fragile and disposable into a solid, sturdy piece of furniture.

humberto and fernando campana's "corallo armchair" 1989-2002 • electrostatically spray painted steel wires are individually hand-and-tool-formed and welded together. the idea came from a study in interpreting originally pre-existing materials, and the form from sea coral. it is appropriately named "corallo", the portuguese word for coral.

anon pairot's "pare chaise longue" 2004 • pairot creates furniture and furnishings with materials native to his home country of thailand. the concept of the pare chaise is to reduce waste through a simple and effective design, inspired by traditional bamboo rafts that thai people call pare.

adam simha's "5-minute dining and lounge chair" • searching for a "free and unselfconscious mix of fact, function, wit, and whimsy", simha believes that "the design of a chair should address the reality of the experience of sitting: inherently one of changing needs and desires". the initial prototype took 5 minutes to construct, and became the name. constructed from a single sheet of mild or stainless steel, a strip of acetal or polycarbonate provides grip for the front leg.

verner panton's "panton chair" 1968• the panton has become one of the most iconic pieces of 20th century furniture. panton, a student of arne jacobsen, and a colleague of many of the era's most acclaimed designers, verner panton was deep-rooted in his pop influence, as was the famous panton chair, which featured a polypropylene structure consisting of sleek fluid curves. this method of using a single cohesive material throughout hte entire piece is still used in present designs and continues to be popular and effective way of producing innovative furniture that is at the same time conscious of effective material use.

designer lighting

i always spend countless hours during the move-in process (wether it be into my dorm at school, or back into my room at home) setting up my desk space. I will have my laptop, monitor, speakers, lamps, external hard drives, and various toys and figures all laid out around me, and i will be sitting on my chair at my empty desk - visualizing all the possibilities of where each item can potentially go. and after i decided on a configuration, i will be constantly moving things around slightly until i reach the perfect harmony of relationships between the location of each item on my desk (and every time it always ends up being almost exactly the same configuration as before!). lighting of course plays a very big role in this process. i am sure that is not only i that pays such attention to these things. lighting will make or break the mood of a room or space. what started as a necessity of a light due to visibility, has now turned into something that is much more based on aesthetics, mood, emotion and other personal attributes. The following examples of modern lighting show how far a lamp has come, from starting as a simple source of light, has taken on the attributes of a piece of furniture and decoration.

airswitch 1 by uk based, mathmos design is based on the design of a flask reminiscent high-school chemistry classrooms. passing your hand horizontally across the opening will activate/deactivate the lamp, and moving your hand vertically above the opening will dim and brighten the lamp.

the ed table by g. berchicci takes european furniture design to a new level with light. lights inside of the glass table illuminate the entire surface of the table as well as the support underneath, providing a new type of environment for dining or any other use you would have for this table. 

giuseppe colonna’s x cross consists of forty colored cubes of light, configurable to hang on a wall or lay flat on a horizontal surface. the range of colors is completely customizable, allowing each user to have an individually unique configuration. the x cross gives home lighting a new form.

carl mertens’ tabletop fireplace takes an ancient concept of an oil burning lamp and gives it a new appearance. taking on the configuration of wooden logs burning in a campfire, the tabletop fireplace adds a modern style to an old concept.

the fit lamp by giuseppe colonna consists of two interweaving cubes intersecting to add both light and color to a room. innovative form and customizability: two aspects that are becoming more and more apparent in modern lighting. the fit lamp is another example of the modern role of light - both as a source of illumination and as an expression of creativity and decoration.

dealing with the passed/past

history is written through people 'leaving their mark' in the world. that mark of the past may be left via the means of a war, a social movement, great accomplishments, etc. in most cases, human nature will drive a desire for ownership. wether it be through involvement in a project, or a significant achievement, or anything else that one involves their hand in, they want to be recognized. we like to see that our involvement has changed something, that it has affected to outcome of something significantly. we like to 'leave our mark' in history. that history may be that which will be read by students in high school classrooms, or that which is seen by everyone who walks in front of a particular wall in new york city. the following are examples of recent innovations in 'leaving your mark' in todays world. the advancement of technology has opened up endless paths that we can all 'leave our mark'.

the graffiti research lab is all about outfitting today's graffiti artists with new technologies for urban communication. the "untouchable" project allowed artists to leave their mark on places normally unreachable without extreme preparatory procedures, such as underneath the brooklyn bridge. these images are created by laser projection. 

the reverse graffiti project, by artist "moose" takes a completely new approach to urban art. the walls of the san francisco broadway tunnel were caked with soot and dirt from years of 20,000 passing motor vehicles per day. using a plant based cleaner by green works, moose blasts away the dirt and soot using stencils, leaving behind incredible scenery and images created from the now clean areas of the walls.

the hyposurface is a wall consisting of many smaller panels that are powered by compressed air. the wall reacts to sound and movment of passerbys, and can spell out words, and create images.

adobe's interactive video projection wall was part of their promotion for cs3. installed in union square, new york, people's movements were recorded by sophisticated tracking hardware and flash scripting, and were translated into a mixed-media digital mural. as a person walks across the wall, randomly generated animations and music will appear on the wall where the person has been.

interactive floor designer sensacell's led floor captures digital footprints. consisting of 1000 leds across 250 square feet, the pressure sensitive floor responds to steps by lighting up. the steps are tracked over time, allowing users to create a series of footprints that slowly fade away.