Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Manufactured Landscapes

Product of Product Design:

MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a super saturated documentary illustrating the works of Edward Burtynsky and his perception of man made landscapes. Produced in 2006, Burtynsky and his team travel to the heart of mass-produced goods, China. Known for his large-scale photographs, Burtynsky reveals the cold realities of massive production through camera including film, digital, and video. The images are mesmerizing, showing all processes of production from coal mining to landfills of waste.

The opening segment of the documentary runs 8 minutes and 25 seconds. Filming isle after isle the camera lens does not move, instead the cameras body is rolled sideways limiting the viewer’s ability to focus on a particular part of the production system. The reality of the opening segment reveals the factory workers perception of forced concentration. Each worker tediously cleans, checks, assembles and packages in accordance to the factory’s schedule, a schedule based on seconds.

Occasionally, I question my existence within the industrial design program here at RISD. I applied here because I enjoy making things, and wanted to learn how to make them better. However, better is a vague term and can be interpreted in many different ways. A corporations perception of better means more profit by any means necessary. An environmentalist perceives better in terms of sustainability, in many cases increasing the cost of the product, or decreasing the aesthetic value of the product.

Often, I imagine myself interviewing for a job, awaiting certain questions such as ‘why should we hire you?’ I confidently respond with ‘well, I’m not a fast learner… I’m not efficient with time or energy… and my communication skills are not very effective.’ Is honesty really the best policy? I’m not sure. What I do know is that we have to rethink the ways in which we live. It takes constant effort, energy and criticism.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Marketing Design vs. Art and Design

Design as Marketing: Staples Easy Button

Similar to other mass produced goods, Staples Easy Button became a nationwide hit as a result of an effective marketing campaign. Staples, the largest office supply superstore hired McCann-Erickson Worldwide to create an innovative campaign to motivate Staples and non-Staples costumers to feel good about shopping at their stores. The same Marketing Agency was responsible for the creation of Mastercard’s ‘priceless’ campaign. The commercials, billboards and advertisements attracted millions based on its philosophy that experiences are only a result of money spent.

Leslie Sims, a senior VP and group creative director is responsible for the birth of the campaign. The important question, how do we illustrate the concept of easy? Silly enough, Leslie asked ‘How nice it would be if I could just push a button to come up with a great ad, so we could go to lunch.’ The idea of ‘Easy’ was born. ‘It took an amorphous concept and made it tangible’.

As a result of effective advertising, customers began talking about buying real Easy Buttons. In September 2005 Staples began selling $5 3-inch red plastic buttons that when pushed repeated ‘That was easy’. Staples reported a 37% increase in share prices and its customer recall of advertising has doubled to 70%. This is outstanding considering that most businesses with adolescent advertising techniques expect a 10-15% customer return.

Design as Art: Limited Production

Limited production is essential for the respect and integrity of the designer and Design. Unfortunately, many designers who work for larger businesses are not credited for their work, physically as well as financially. Almost all ideas and concepts created by designers are placed upon shelves for future exploration and discussion. These ideas and concepts are owned by the company, thus the designer gives up all rights. The problem is that good designers are not compensated for successful ideas created by themselves. While the company is rewarded with increased profits, the designers salary stays the same. Companies will see their product over lifetimes, however the designer only gets paid once.

Limited production created and produced by the designer and his team is important to Design. Although working with a very limited budget, the designer is entirely responsible for his creation. The difference between mass and limited production is that mass production cares only for profit, while limited production cares more about integrity. Please don’t be fooled by companies like Nike who limited productions of Jordans and other shoe styles, they still are only concerned about profits. Nike’s marketing team utilizes the philosophy of artistic limited quantities to increase the value of their product. Nike could care less about the environment or its factory workers making 8 cents per pair shoe.

I encourage all artists and designers to create for the sake of creation. Although profit is essential as a means to survive, we should not loose focus of ethics and integrity.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

better place : not really!

‘As consumers, we can continue our love affair with cars, and even rekindle that relationship by experiencing transportation as a sustainable service’

Better Place is working to build an electric car network utilizing current technologies. The California-based company aims to ‘reduce global dependency on petroleum through the creation of a market-based transportation infrastructure that supports electric vehicles, providing consumers with a cleaner, sustainable, personal transportation alternative.’ As much as I would like to advocate such a program, I cannot considering that coal is the largest source of fuel for the generation of electricity world-wide.

The greenhouse gas produced from burning coal greatly contributes to climate change and global warming. I don’t understand how Better Place can advocate for a better environment while their vehicles still produce carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, we do not see the effects of our dependency on burning coal because the majority of us do not live near coal burning facilities. When we look at cars and trucks we are able to identify the bi-products of smoke and gas. However when we flip a light switch or turn on the television, we see no evidence of pollution, the pollution is produced at a separate location.

Plugging in your vehicle is not safe, sustainable, friendly or better. Better Place’s third pillar believes in ‘a planet healing and thriving’. Is this a joke, is rekindling the relationship with our vehicles good in any way? Americans are overly obsessive with speed, scale and power far more then any other nation. Rekindling this experience is not justified by the convenience of simply ‘plugging-in’ our vehicles. It is time that the idea of the car be dismantled, and for designers to rethink transportation entirely. I refuse to live in, work in, or move in a bubble.

No cars go.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Business of War

Friday, November 7, 2008

Global Exhange

Humanitarianism: that all human beings deserve respect and dignity and should be treated as such.

'I thought that God felt tired of people on earth here, felt tired of the bad deeds, I thought God got tired of us.' John Bul Dau, a Sudan refugee recites these words as he sits within his shared apartment of Syracuse New York. One of several rescued refugees, John contemplates his experiences. ‘If I get a good place, why not the others?’. The ‘others’ john refers to are the 27,000 refugee boys known as ‘the lost boys of Sudan. Orphaned and or displaced, these 27,000 boys are product of the second Sudanese civil war of which, 2 million men, women and children killed.

The infrastructures of our global economy are densely intertwined. Some of us attempt to change these systems to promote some form of equality both financially and culturally. Infrastructural changes are great challenges, but they must be addressed. Currently we face a major infrastructural challenge, industrial design. Many of us chose to study industrial design because we enjoy making utilitarian things. We believe that through design, we can solve problems both micro and macro.

Unfortunately, product design has created many of these problems. Humans are linear people who live in a cyclical environment. Over time, product design has transformed into a vicious circle of profit, disposal and gains. The Lost Boys of Sudan raise an important aspect of design. At the moment, 70% of Sudan’s exports are oil and gold. Currently, oil is absolutely essential pertaining to every part of product design. From sketching materials to computers, product, packaging, and shipping. Shipping, of which consumes the greatest amount of energy or oil.

The point is, the more we design the more we exploit foreign people and resources. The more shelter’s and services we provide to parts of Sudan, the higher the demand we place upon oil. Oil, of which has had major effects on Sudan’s history within the past 100 years, and a major cause of civil instability and greed. As designers, we must be careful and conscious of our impacts both through design, as well as daily impacts of our current lifestyles.

It is absolutely essential to help people in need. But first, we must explore and dissect the unfair infrastructural system we have created. We must redesign the global exchange of goods. We must be aware that the many problems we attempt to solve were created, paid for, and driven by us.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

id history : innovation & application : IBM & Hollerith Data Processing

Through technology, the computer has evolved tremendously. First conceived in 1890 by Hermin Hollerith, automated data processing of punched cards was performed by tabulating machines. Manufactured by the Computing Tabulating Recoding Corporation, computers stamped or more accurately, punched their way into history.
Currently, the computer provides endless services via visually and auditory. Communicating information at fast speeds using little energy, the computer has transformed our history, culture and lifestyles. Over time, the computer has stitched its way into the 21st century holding together the fibers and strands that connects us all, creating a massive woven network. Unfortunately, a closer look at the history automated computing will reveal the complexities of design and human interaction.
Unknown of it’s potential, Hollerith chose the punched card as the basis for storing and processing information. These machines reduced a ten-year job to three months saving the 1890 taxpayers five million dollars. The innovation earned him a PhD in 1890 at Columbia University. In 1911 Hollerith's company merged with two others to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), which changed its name to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1924.
The first production of machines was used by the United States Government. After calculating census information the Government says thanks and intends to do business again in several years. Taking a cold blow from the government, IBM seeks business opportunities abroad. IBM was smart and did not merely sell the machines and walk away. Instead, IBM leased these machines for high fees and became the sole distribution of punch cards.
As leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi), Adolf Hitler came to power in January 30, 1933. A central Nazi goal was to identify and destroy Germany's 600,000 Jews. Mass consumption of the Jewish population would not be possible without the utilization of current technologies, IBM’s punch card system. IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson used overseas subsidiaries to provide the Third Reich with unit record data processing machines. Author of IBM and the Holocaust, Edwin Black says Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. Black argues that IBM knowingly sold, distributed and serviced IBM certified punch card systems to Germany during World War II.
According to archived documents, IBM did in fact commit to the allegations brought forth, however, was found not guilty of intentional participation. Although business ethics are not so simple, where do we draw the line in terms of inhumane treatment and product/service sales? When do we say that this is not right and will not be tolerated? Black says Solipsistic and dazzled by its own swirling universe of technical possibilities, IBM was self-gripped by a special amoral corporate mantra: if it can be done, it should be done. To the blind technocrat, the means were more important than the ends. People, businesses and corporations must take responsibility for their actions. There must be a line drawn that separates wrong from right.
I understand that machines don’t kill people, people kill people. But how do we allow this to happen? Are financial gains really worth more than human life? As designers we try to innovate. Innovation is good. But what happens when our innovations lead to destruction. I.e. the atomic bomb for instance. Its magnitude of destruction is infinite, however it’s science is so important. How do we find the balance between innovation, progression and a sustainable environment? Is the balance already existing, is balance a combination of creation and destruction? As artists and designers, our job is to create and make. It is unknown what our creations or innovations will bring. It should be our commitment to design a better mousetrap, after all, it’s not called mouse-kill!

Creativity and the city by Richard Florida emphasizes on morris’s fascination with drawing inspiration from the old through architecture and environment. The ability not just to look at the old, but to touch, feel and smell, awaken the all our senses. By observing what has already been created, designers can take a more intuitive approach to creativity and design. Process is an integral part, but utilizing intuition is essential to being creative. It is what drives our hunger. Morris emphasizes the past as a model and reminder of continuity. Through design, I want to rethink urban environments. Urban redevelopment must also take this similar approach because creative people want real authentic places. We don’t want plastic and vinyl anymore, we want to utilize natural, raw, and more sustainable materials.

“Creative people - in fact people - want authentic places. Real places. Like old industrial sites. Far too many cities have leveled these. We have destroyed so much of our history. And so quickly. Sometimes we move way to fast in the united states. We don’t want generica. We want authentic, we want real, we want history.”

Morris Chair Re-invented