Friday, June 16, 2006

Reality designers

Of course you all know reality TV shows like big brother, survivor, beauty and the geek, etc. There are also "reality fashion design shows" like top-models and project runnway. But, have you heard about a "reality industrial design show"? Actually, I would call it "reality chindogu design"... in fact, I use examples from that show to show my students exactly what they ARE NOT suposed to do. The show it's called " let's get inventin' " and of course it's totally about kiwi ingenuity (in other words: Rednecks in other countries solve their problems with duct tape, kiwis solve theirs with No.8 wire).

The idea of encouraging youngsters to invent something is a very good one. I have nothing against encouraging creativity... but not at the expense of causing a false impression of how design should be done. If children start to believe that a lazy-boy couch with a rocket, glasses (spectacles) with fake x-ray vision, an in-car coffee machine, a gadget that stops kids being scared of that horrible noise the bath makes when you let the water out, and a crayfish pot designed to stop people pinching your catch, are patentable ideas... we are soooooo doomed!

Again, there is a cultural problem with all that. In Mexico we all have seen the "inventions" of Dr. Chunga, and everyone knows, that those inventions are just chindogus... nobody would expect to find those products in any store, despite their ingenuity, we all know those are not serious products. However, kiwis do not have a Dr. Chunga or Professor Gesundheit to teach them about German design. We have the Goober Brothers showing kids how to build kitsch, chindugu and other products to fill the design garbage taxonomy.

A couple of weeks back, Better by Design (a kiwi organization to promote design led business) featured an article about furnware's Bodyfurn chair which won a design innovation award. It's really sad to see that design awards are like the Oscars... the best movie is not actually the best movie, but the blockbuster that sells more millions. I mean, just look at the chair! in terms of aesthetic composition is just terrible! and what is with those plastic things to make the legs square? That is a technical contradiction that was solved in a bad manner. I know that it compromises the stability of the chair, but Hellouuu! that is why it is called a technical contradiction. And don't get me started on formal language... and those are the grown-ups designers.

Solving design problems and techinical contradictions cannot be done by "ingenuity" or "intuition" or be solved using nr. 8 wire or duct tape. It requires advanced techniques like triz, qfd, morphological matrix, etc... Objects as simple (or as complicated) as a chair, cannot be designed like it used to be, just by sketching and prototyping. They require in depth user centered design and consistent systematic design methods to develop real innovations.

Products in our modern life are not just objects to satisfy one need. They have to be "state of the art" objects. That means, the way they are developed has to be state of the art too. The design process is not just putting parts together using duct tape (or silicone guns) to build a motorised picnic table or a hover board. Summarising, it is a good idea to introduce kids to design and innovation using a TV program. But there's also the responsibility to show them how to do things right: 1 -starting by getting materials from real industry suppliers, not from the warehouse! 2- Chindogus like those from Goober Brothers or Dr. Chunga are not acceptable or patentable products, and 3 - children learn from what they see... if you give them the wrongful idea that chidogus are OK, they will grow believing that those kind of objects are "world class innovations and good examples of kiwi ingenuity". Just like Jaime used to say "trash comes in, trash comes out". Great idea to make a reality show about design... but please, people from TVNZ and the Minister of Economic Development, please choose carefuly the projects featured on that show to give good examples, not bad examples.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point well put. Sure give us the budgets to shop anywhere but the Warehouse and we will. Until then we make do with what we have, not a bad thing to teach kids really. Watch out for the next top rating series in Sept. Gary Goober.

8:02 AM  

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