Thursday, September 23, 2010

Making Meaning of my design brief

It is time to write my design brief for my studio class and last week I could have done it on time. I was set on the idea of making an item which either collapsed, transformed, or was just mechanically superior to its predecessor. Yet, as the deadline approaches, this idea no longer seems like the only interest which occupies my thoughts.

Dedication to function over form has always been my way of overcoming many of the stylistic decisions that must be made during the design process. First the basic needs must be addressed, then the form can be determined by a combination of mechanics, style, target market, and the ever present teachings of the Pratt 3D department. There is a certain emptyness to this process though, something is left unsatisfied by design which accepts the traditional assumption that the styling of an object is better determined by designers than by the consumer.

Every day inventors make useful items, and every day designers produce sleek renderings which epitomize form and function in harmony. I cannot help but wonder what the role of the designer has become. Is it our job to create something that does good, or is it similar to the role of a fashion designer who relies on changing trends in order to sell clothes each season.

In any case, I am struggling to figure out what is more practical, important and interesting. Designing one object which is a significant improvement over the last is good. It shows that I can define and solve problems, and probably make them look pretty. But if I am to complete this task, I must first find a starting point, and that is where I am floundering. If I am unable to find area for improvement in the world, then do I have the skill to solve such a problem?

The alternative is to turn to a research based exploration of the role of the designer in the world. It concerns me that my education focuses so much energy on my visual literacy, yet ignores the fact that most people are ignorant or indifferent to the forms which we create. The designer should not pass judgment on the tastes of those less educated than they, rather they should examine what is most loved. There is a validity to all stylistic preferences outside of those that are taught in school, to say otherwise is outdated, pre-postmodernist thinking which does not acknowledge the polyvocality which pervades other areas of academia.

We live in a time when the mass media is severely undermined by the new social media (twitter, reddit, op-ed bloggers) which gives the individual an opportunity to be heard. It is possible that the DIY and craft movements are growing for no reason other than a desire for individuality and freedom from impersonal industrial design. Sometimes it is just too easy to look at the portfolios on design websites and find a lack of individuality and a dedication to the idea of the designer as the sole creator of beauty. In the scheme of things, those of us who consider ourselves to be visually literate are just another group of people with similar taste.

As you can see from my passionate writing, I am pretty opinionated on the role of design and beauty in relation to society. I am sure that my comments can be refuted with all sorts of arguments, and those are very welcome.

Now that I have written more of a rant than a contrast of options I will go to bed.

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