Eindhoven is a center of design. It started with Philips’ “center of commands” that made some serious break through in the product design industry, having put the user at the center of the design already in the mid 90’s. Now, the Design Academy is going the same way placing design in different contexts from social to cultural, re-defining the role of the designer not only as a thinker and maker of objects, but as a social figure that has a certain responsibility towards the user.
Some would see it as pretentious to see ourselves responsible as to how people interact or how they behave in certain situations, but i think it is inevitable. As designers we constantly develop new products, therefore we develop new ways to use those products. These new uses create new interactions, new actions, and with those comes our responsibility as designers. We design new behaviours.
Some of the people we met during our trip to the netherlands take that role more playfully, like designer Chris Kabel designing a round bench in a way that people can comunicate with each other while sitting on it, or more seriously like Jose dè la O, looking for people to collaborate with him on environmental and social projects, like his “window agriculture” project. We, designers, have a role. We have responsibility, and we can’t escape from it.
As designers we are responsible to what we design – to what influence it will have on the user. But the context – physical, cultural, social – in which we place our design is another aspect to which we are responsible, since placing it in different situations might completely change its meaning hence the way it will be used.
We design in a contexts and therefore we influence it, as much as we are influenced by it.
“The essence of design is relationships. You can never only design a chair without taking into considerations what surrounds it, it’s story […] ” – That is what Louis Schouwenberg, the head of the “Contextual Design” master programme in the Design Academy of Eindhoven told us. The reciprocate relationship between a design, might that be a chair or a house, and its environment can determinate the way it is used, the way it is criticized, the way it is seen.
I believe a big part of the context in which we design an object or a space is us. We bring ourselves into the design, using our knowledge, our passions, our life experience. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t enjoy what we do. Meeting people like Jewellery designer Ted Noten, that does what he loves, what he enjoys doing, expressing his very own self in his work, is very inspiring. In an hour’s lecture he told us about himself, the way he grew up, the way he sees himself and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I believe it all comes down to one important sentence he said during his lecture: “once you can re-feel what you liked as a young child you’re half way to being a good designer. You have to find what you liked as a young kid and feel it again”. And indeed he is in a continuous chase after that feeling. This is what makes him so passionate about his work. This is what makes him Ted Noten. That extravagant jewellery designer that makes mostly out of the ordinary art pieces, always after something that was never done before.
I believe that passion was also in other people’s work or way of thinking about design. Louis Schouwenberg also said “ […] You take a thing and you research about it, read, draw, until you develop your way of thinking about it. You rely on what others have said or done about it […] you build your opinion, you take your own stand.” This is a way of approaching design that is sometimes considered more artistic, and indeed, looking at Ted Noten’s work we see more of an artist’s than a designer’s work, but that’s where the magic is, in my opinion. On the edge between art and design.
Openness | The future.
As a continuous line that connected the dots through the whole DDW HIT Experience there was Openness. Openness to yourself, with Ted Noten’s long unstoppable chase after that childhood feeling; openness to the surroundings when researching a field in which we want to place a new object; openness as a part of being a designer, absorbing both from the outside and from the inside. The Fab Lab was a perfect note to end on, having created, researched and even published a book about Open Design.
A new significance to openness was created when the first Fab Lab at MIT opened as an open laboratory, a place to share tools and machines and to create one’s own design.
In Amsterdam they took it a step forward, and since raising questions is a big part of a designer’s way of life, they asked how that whole open way of sharing tools, being able to produce our own objects, would influence the future of design. There are no answers yet, only theories, but I think in this professions it is all about trying to understand the future. Trying to understand where we’re going and what we can create to help us get there. The Fab Lab, just like Droog, has a team that is trying to research cultures and different scenarios trying to analyze the past and the present, in order to draw conclusions about the future. Whatever the future will be, I believe the important thing is not so much the outcome, but the process itself. The questions raised, the infinite research, the curiosity, are what define the designer as one, and make him develop both as a person and as a professional.
best love scene… (click to watch)
Freedom is walking around in a strange town with a large maxi dress, my hair blowing in the wind wearing a pair of large sunglasses. It is sitting in a restaurant, drinking a glass of chardonnay, waiting for my three course meal.
Freedom is walking in that foreign town with a map, but every now and then taking a turn to a street that is not even signed on it, just because it’s pretty, or just to see where it leads. Freedom is getting lost in that town, forgetting about the map.
Freedom is taking loads of pictures of the same building from every possible angle, because there’s so much to see in it, and coming back to take more pictures the next day. It is looking at the view, the buildings, the colours, the lights. It is feeling the air, the perfumes, listening to its sounds, hearing its music. It is feeling that you own the town, even though you’ve been there only for a day.
Freedom is making plans, good plans, and then doing something completely different.
Freedom is walking and walking and walking until you feel like your feet are about to fall off, and still not taking the train, but walking to the other side of town because you want to feel it.
Freedom is washing your feet with freezing cold water so they don’t swell, enjoying the pain the first second the water touches your skin, so that tomorrow you can feel free again.
There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold,
And she lives on her planet alone.
She loves her planet, or so I’ve been told,
Loves the peace of being on her own.
Every now and then she goes on a trip,
To see other planets around,
So she picked up a job on a planet called Earth
And she goes there each week, now she’s bound.
She’s a very nice lady, does whatever she can,
To teach those “people” her finds,
But not familiar with the language, she finds it quite hard,
To instruct all those beautiful minds.
She visits more planets every week,
She learns about habits and ways,
And she comes back to earth to instruct and profess,
But the students don’t get what she says.
“Dear lady, oh please, let your people go,
For this passover holiday now,
For before you gave us our holiday load
Your treasures were all lost somehow.
“We’re all different out here, on this planet of ours
What glitters may be gold just for one,
So in order to show us your treasures be sure
They’re turned with their glittery side to the sun.”
It depends on the stars. Whether you like it or not it does. Everything depends on them and you can only try to intervene but no one promises you it will work.
Everything is written there: when you’re going to meet your other half, what job you’re going to get and if you’re going to stay poor forever or win the lottery.
It all depends on how they’re disposed, whether they’re cracked, broken or just crooked and we can try to move them or fix them, but no one really knows how.
I’ve been trying to move mine for a while now. I thought they were crooked ’cause things weren’t quite right. I thought that I could just straighten them up a bit and everything would be fine. But I couldn’t figure out how to get closer to them, and even if I did I still had to find out how to move them… I mean, how the hell do you move a star?
So first thing’s first, I tried to get as close to them as I could and I saw it wasn’t so difficult. The hard part was getting them to notice me, because what good is it to be around stars if they don’t know I’m there?
I tried going at them from the back thinking that maybe if I scared them they’d jump and move by themselves, and they would definitely notice me this way! It was then that I found out stars don’t scare that easily!
I spent a lot of time thinking how I could move them and just couldn’t think of a way to do so. Pushing was out of the question because I don’t believe in violence, and I’m not that strong anyway, so I decided to try talking to them. Now, if you know anything about politics you know that talking is not the easiest way to reach a goal (politicians try to move the stars all the time… you can see where the talking gets them!). However, since, as I said, I’m not a violent person, I thought I’d try the talking thing anyway. I tried and I tried to talk to them and nothing. They wouldn’t listen.
I went on thinking. should I pass by them trying to make a good enough impression they’d be so impressed they’ll just move? is charm enough to move the stars? I decided I should try, good impression can’t hurt, can it?
So I put on my best dress, shone my favourite shoes, straightened my hair and put on some make up, put on my biggest smile and went to meet them. This time I passed on through the main gate. I didn’t want to scare them, I wanted them to know I was coming. I wanted them to expect me!
There was a sound of bells ringing when I walked through the silver gate. It was a very nice gate, yet not too fancy. It made me feel comfortable. I straightened up and walked ahead smiling to myself.
I saw them looking at me, curious. They were in the middle of a meeting but I saw them peeking out every now and then to see what I was doing. Meanwhile, I just sat there looking around and thinking. I thought maybe now that they were curious I could try talking to them again. Maybe now they’d listen! So I started thinking what to say, or better, how to ask them to move in a way that would make them do just that.
Then they came to me. I wasn’t ready but I was calm. I decided to stay clam and just be myself.
We had a nice chat and when we separated they told me I was charming… ‘what a nice thing to say’, I thought. They walked me back to the silver gate, which was very nice of them, and told me they’d think about moving and they’d let me know as soon as they decide, because they have other requests to consider (I guess they do listen to politicians sometimes..).
I went home with a good feeling and a big smile on my face. I had a glass of wine and felt happy and relaxed.
I’m still waiting to hear from them, but just knowing I’m charming enough to impress the stars can make a big difference..
* ~A.A. Milne
I used to find myself dreaming a lot. Dreaming of what I wanted to be and how I wanted to make it happen…
Mostly I day-dreamt about the future instead of working or studying. I knew exactly how I wanted things to be, how I wanted them to look, the colours, the perfumes, the music… I felt what I wanted to feel.
Then I fell down from my soft white cloud.
At the beginning I thought I could fly back up to it and I tried really hard to do so till I realized my wings weren’t but arms, so I crashed down to the ground. Once on the ground, hurt and sore, I looked up and couldn’t see my cloud any more.
Trying to find my way on the ground I passed rivers and lakes, but also thick forests. During my walkabouts I met all sorts of animals. I saw some squirrels just passing by, mostly not even looking at me at all, rabbits and bunnies waved at me from the other side of a lake, and I even met a deer or two that smiled at me wishing me luck on my journey.
But mostly I met wolves and snakes. I didn’t even realize how thick the forest was till I saw all the wolves around me. At first I thought they were dogs, but soon enough I understood there was nothing loyal about them, and their teeth were very sharp. I Tried to defend myself but it didn’t work, I got wounded, and quite deeply so.
I don’t know if I had under-estimated the power of wolves’ teeth or over-estimated my ability to defend myself but either way, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find my cloud through the dark sky of the thick thick forest. At some point I even thought I had imagined my cloud and I have actually been in the forest the whole time. I kept walking.
At a certain point, in the middle of the forest I got to a clearing. I could see the blue sky, some clouds and even a bird. The bird came down and gave me a balloon. It was red, but it was empty. She gave me the red balloon and left, tweeting all the way up to a cloud that was quite similar to mine, almost as beautiful, but so far I couldn’t really see the colours or hear the music.
I kept on walking with the empty balloon in my hand. The forest was thick, but every now and then I saw the bird flying between the trees. After a while I realized there were no more wolves around me. There were still some snakes on the trees every now and then, but the forest wasn’t as thick as before and I could see a piece of the blue sky when trying really hard.
Every now and then the bird came to me, poking my empty balloon and tweeting, as if she wanted to tell me something.
Suddenly a strong light stroke me. I was standing at the end of the forest. It was scary, because I got used to the darkness, and the strong light hurt my eyes. I fell down to the ground and saw that it wasn’t as hard as it seemed when I first fell from the cloud. It was covered with soft green grass and it had a fresh smell. I took my red empty balloon and got up, for the first time trying to understand what to do with it.
I walked some more till I noticed the bird going up to that cloud again. I decided I had to go see it myself. I was afraid and didn’t know how I could get up there, so I went on thinking about my balloon. Then it came to me: I could use the balloon to go up to the cloud. But then I was scared again… what if an eagle comes and blows up my balloon while I’m hanging on air and I fall back again? But then, if I don’t get closer to the cloud I will never see the colours or hear the music… I decided to blow some air into my balloon to see if it is strong enough. I did it slowly and carefully. When It was full it started carrying me up.
I’m going up slowly because I decided it was safer this way. Lately I’ve started hearing some music… It is soft and calm. And the colours… oh the colours! There must be a million different shades! I’m sure I will get there some day, but for now, I’m enjoying flying around getting slowly closer to the cloud hoping when I get there I can live it to the fullest.
- – -
So Winnie-the-Pooh went round to his friend Christopher
Robin, who lived behind a green door in another part of the Forest.
“Good morning, Christopher Robin,” he said.
“Good morning, Winnie-ther-Pooh,” said you.
“I wonder if you’ve got such a thing as a balloon about you?”
“Yes, I just said to myself coming along: ‘I wonder if Christopher Robin has such a thing as a balloon about him?’ I just said it to myself, thinking of balloons, and wondering.”
“What do you want a balloon for?” you said.
Winnie-the-Pooh looked round to see that nobody was listening, put his paw to his mouth, and said in a deep whisper: “Honey!”
“But you don’t get honey with balloons!”
“I do,” said Pooh.
* dedicated to Ima.
Dig. Dig as deep as you can. If you do so, you will find unexpected things. You will find things you thought were lost. You will find feelings, wills, dreams, desires. You’ll find love.
You’ll find things you never new were there… that you were too scared to notice, or just didn’t want to admit were in you. Have the courage to admit they’re there so you can use them. In fact, you should use all those things. They can help you create. They can help you survive hard times, and good times. They can help you feel… love… be. They can help you live.
It won’t be easy. It will hurt, sometimes even burn. But it will also be funny and joyful. It will make you laugh, but it will also make you cry. It will make you suffer.
So let yourself go and start digging. The treasures you will find are worthy of the effort, the sweat, the tears, the heartaches and the pain. Those treasures will help you remember who you are.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration, or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother to conceal your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.” Jim Jarmusch
Authenticity is a way of living. It is a way of being, of approaching life, of feeling. It is about being who you are, expressing all you feel, not caring about being judged.
I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately and, as sad as it might be, I realize I live in a society that is not nearly authentic. The sad part is that we don’t even aspire for authenticity! We copy the American way of living and working, we dress like Europeans (or at least we’d like to think we do), we talk in dollars and in euros and we eat Italian and Arabic (or Mediterranean, if we want it to sound more sophisticated) food and buy only things ‘made in Italy’, and then we dare saying ‘there’s no place like home’! Where did our culture go? or better, did we ever have one?
People live their life in a lie, they envy and they copy each other, and they don’t really think about their own life passing by. They compete with each other on who achieves more, who arrives to goals first, and they forget to feel. They hurt relationship because they forget to be happy for each other’s achievements, they get lost in competition, in trying to be better than others instead of better people. They copy each other for the same reason forgetting who they really are, then at 55 they wake up and decide to change occupation because they never really did what they like.
All the above is damaging to a designer. A designer must be authentic. I distinguish between art and design. I think design can be art, but it isn’t necessarily it. The discussion about the meaning of art has been going on for centuries and a lot has been said about it, but on one thing most philosophers agree and that is that an artist always express what he feels through his art. A work of art doesn’t usually have a function a side from expressing the artist’s feelings. Design, on the other hand, has first and foremost the objective of finding a solution to a problem. Therefore, a designer, in order to be authentic, should express his feelings finding a solution to a problem (pragmatic or philosophic as it might be). Only if the solution comes from the designer’s inside need, design becomes authentic.