Sunday, February 04, 2007

Design Idol

Today we watched a bit of "american idol" when it's the first auditions/selection stage and they get a bunch of weirdos. I guess it's the most interesting and funniest phase of the program. Anyway, for some reason I discovered that it is a lot like some design evaluations and feedback with the students at the early stage of their projects (sketching and initial concepts). I mean, you get similar reactions form the students: there are some good candidates that get the golden ticket which is like the "OK, go ahead with your design concept" and they leave the room jumping with happiness. Nothing extraordinary there, the difficult part is how to deal with the weirdos, with the ones that are "almost there but not quite", and the ones that shouldn't be there at all in the first place (like Simon would say, they should start a career in cooking, become lawyers or something). Don't cha think?

Of course Simon is too cynical... and to make it worse, he is almost always right, he just got a very sarcastic or cynical way of saying things. But besides from that, evaluating a singer or evaluating a design concept is not as subjective as one might think. It's not a mathematical result where you have a correct answer, there are many factors to consider, and the judge takes a decision based on those factors. It's just the same with a design concept, one has to consider feasibility, resources, aesthetics, proportions, functionality, and many, many other things, and put that in a simple "yes" or "no" result. I mean... how would you rate Red's performance of bohemian rapsody on a scale from 1 to 10?

Some contestants (or design students) engage in useless discussions when their project gets rejected. They try arguments like:
  • "I did my best and you should consider that",
  • "I worked so hard for this moment",
  • "You don't understand the young generations and you are wrong",
  • "I don't see what is wrong with my concept (singing), all my friends tell me that it's great, and you are wrong",
  • "I am going to make it despite your opinion and prove you wrong",
  • "I don't care about your experience, I know I am right, you are the one who has no idea about (singing) design",
  • etc, etc.
But all that is not going to change the fact that either they are in fact terrible singers, or they may be good, but not good enough to pass. Some of them accept and understand the critic, that they have to improve or change some aspect of their performance, or their design project (for this analogy). Some students actually listen to what the teacher says, and they return to their desks to work on that, while some of them try to insist and do not accept any suggestion or criticism.

OK, OK, I am sometimes (a lot) like Simon. I remember very well one of my first students at the architecture school. She designed a room so big, so out of proportion, that I drew a tennis court and a mini golf course on her drawing just to show her how big it was! Anyway, the whole point of the american idol show is precisely Simon's attitude. I just loved his guest appearance at the Simpsons. I was wondering what would happen after the auditions, if they had a terminal to fill in an "academic performance evaluation" like those we have at universities. How would all those thousands of candidates (accepted and rejected) evaluate those 3 judges? Well, for starters, he wouldn't get any salary raise, or academic rank promotion. And I am also not too certain about how they would evaluate Paula Abdul or Randy... they are also mean sometimes. What I envy from them... is that they only have to endure the torture of those auditions for a couple of days, not for a whole semester.

A couple of days ago, we saw a TV interview with Dione Warwick, who was in NZ for a farewell concert. She criticized american idol, or better said, that the young people get the false idea that success is going to happen out of nothing, just by auditioning on TV. Most of those contestants don't even know how to read music or play an instrument. They don't have any idea of pitch, tone, scale, rhythm, or any musical knowledge at all, and yet, they expect the judges to give them compliments and ultimately become pop idols without any hard work (watch the William Hung example). Well, a similar story with some design students who (honestly) believe that design is just taking a bunch of crayons which become like magic wands that create products and beautiful objects with no effort or thinking involved whatsoever...

In sum, a suggestion for design students: do not make a scene when your project or concept gets rejected at the early stages. Listen, understand, and improve based on the critic. In real life, you will have to please your client. You can not tell a client, he/she is wrong when he/she wants something changed, I mean, you can and sometimes you should, but you can not impose it just by saying "I am right, you are wrong". If design, or singing like an idol is not your thing, don't worry, you can always apply for a job with Martha Stewart.

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