What is product design is a question that crosses several borders, ranging from new domestic needs and crafted production, production techniques and industrial enhancements, to the authorship or ownership of a particular design. The tech industry is also rising as key player in this field, with the presentation of modern digital products that even go beyond physical reality such as augmented reality and three dimensional vision devices.
So what’s the role of product design and consequently of the designer in the actual process of creation? What does this means to the venustas, firmitas and utilitas of our creative and technical decisions. (1) Can we as consumers make the right choices while someone as a creator doesn’t know our taste, preferences and financial availability? Worst, he thinks he knows! Will the creation as an inspiration from an individual mind, curating a brand or a collection continue as the standard for our needs?
I know this approach is obsolete. As long as we deliver only the closed end result we are going to become an extinct choice real fast. From experience i also know that people, clients, consumers want to expropriate the ownership of the design from the source, and they should. That specific product (logo, site, house, table …), when acquired, is now living in a specific context that can surpass its basic intended function and become a categorised part of the life of the owner. For a better understanding, as context, i’m not talking of products that are design creator anonymous or even cultural patterns of behavior such as regional crafts or traditional items, i’m talking about an intended commercial commission, order, buy or placement in a specific market. Objects should be free to be acquired in more ways than just its functional aspects. The limit should be where good, appropriate, usable and open design stands its point of opportunity to the consumer.
I’m used to putting the problem always on the professional. The usually egocentric, egomaniac and frustrated creator that intends to put his mark in every space in the world. The same that doesn’t realise he is being left being by is own dogmas on how design should complete our pseudo formated life. People are beginning to deviate their thoughts on the role of the designers just because they keep forcing renovation disguised as innovation and don’t present really significant and innovative concepts to our actual use of them. This, fortunately is not the rule and some keep pushing the envelope while being misunderstood as experimentalists. The thin line between consumer and experimental design is being erected as a concrete wall by the ones who should be diluting it, world brands. This theological entities resume advancement in how long a piece can stay in the catalogue or how many times can a initial idea be reproduced. Money, money, money! Ok no problem living with that, but what about power, the power that gives the consumer a choice of extinguishing the product on its first use or adapting it to the ever changing needs of an individual?
I don’t believe in the death or extinction of a professional or his field of work. I don’t believe professions become obsolete with time. Do you think an executioner of the medieval times has ceased to exist? Maybe he just evolved to a more “civilized” form of practice. As an evolutionist I know that it ramifies in the rational obligation to become a man of the present context. Even executioners exist nowadays! And so do designers! The ones that are generally generic in the perception that we have from all of them. Graphic guys make colored pictures. Web guys make animated clickable screens. Product guys make chairs that break. Architects make houses and museums that everybody hates.
No! It’s wrong to think of professional designers this way. These guys communicate with a selected audience defined in a targeted strategy and using the tools they have refined through a curated or experienced process over time. They do what consumers can’t, and in most of the time, others, neglect or disrespect. But, they will be extinct if they don’t think outside the limited approach they know and defend until now. I laugh when we see solutions to this global problem starting in the blend of the opinion from the general audience, translated in data, as the references for an informed creative decision as a key factor as if it was the new theory of creation. This is not a solution but a marketing algorithm. This way they will become a tool than can be far better replaced with a machine.
So, where is the interpolated point of distinction? The disruptive point where the new creators should place themselves and become an intrinsic part of the future needs of our creative society?
Until today people saw only a few number of individuals that could develop this roles as one entity. The educated, always informed, sometimes overwhelmed avid knowledge seeker is becoming apparent in our society, curators. I use an expression that relates to this subject rather appropriately: “…Jack of all trades, Master of none.” By no means decreasing the importance of a real specialist in a given field, there has to be the enlightened individual, the one that can gather the precise amount of disruptive information from a specific field into a broader picture. The renaissance masters are a perfect example of this approach, as collectors of knowledge, they had access to limited amounts of information and knowledge and could master the key aspects of their expression while tying all the ends in a new adaptive way of seeing technology, art, and product design. Today however, with all the knowledge and information available at a distance of a glance we should relate to this quest to control it as indexers and juggle information as a master of micro decisions which are of use as only critic sources. Creation can be an experience of connecting dots between the briefing, the idea and the concept to achieve to solution for a specific result.
I know for experience that broadened skills are the way to control a larger audience and possible scenarios. You just need to use much more than the current 10% brain power humans use in order to do this “anything everything” hypothesis real. Dealing with a problem can be a source of even more problems and to avoid that you must have a process. I have and use one! My one!
Presenting a solution and believing in the achieved conclusion should be an intermediate moment to continue research, validation and test. This is needed in part because the problem is always changing, therefore we should face the evolution of the solution as a cycle of eternal loops and development and also because designers don’t have the inherent critic ability to create generic design products and think of them as good design. They make a simple mistake by assuming that an universal item is not design and don’t even try to understand that same question as a catapult for inspiration and evolution of the most common things we take for granted. A table will always be a table but the function and configuration through time as changed ubiquitously and continuous to do so. Not only in the collection of more and more shapes and finishes but also in functions, uses and configurations. Just look at the way we use products beyond their first use now, listen and buy music, send a written message to someone, buy whatever you want and where we do it, change our minds about taste and fashionable items… Our taste deteriorates inversionally proportional to the time we spend with objects and uses.
Product design is an approach in itself. What to think and create, about a given subject shouldn’t be a manner of individual needs but a medium to the generic user of the object, the function it needs to cover and most of all the longevity of the design process. The problems are perfectly identified and most of them solved, i just need to show you how you can apply the solution.
Hey designer, put yourself in the beginning of the loop and change the way you show ideas you have and think about the supposed concept you are trying to apply as a solution. Become a tool for your audience to discover new products instead of becoming the inanimate joint, button, or package of the product. Think about the experience you’re about to create. Talk to your audience about it.
EXPERIENCES ARE THE NEW PRODUCT DESIGN and i (as a caretaker, as a curator of minds and problems, expressing invisible design through your own eyes) am the media that will show you how.
cover photo : https://www.flickr.com/photos/sergesegal/