Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Philip Hilton design experience

Industrial or any other kind of objects become meaningless or meaningful through their usage. We've heard a lot about emotional design lately, i.e. how to make a product that's going to be not only needed, but wanted! Buyers can identify certain elements with their lifestyle or at least what they pretend to be their lifestyle (so called wannabes) from diet or healthy food, high tech gadgets, humongous SUVs, entertainment systems, sports items, etc. It all depends to which lifestyle-stereotype they want to fit in. Of course all those stereotyped groups are part of a cultural segment of our societies. We can have our prejudices about refinement or lack of it just by looking at someone's car... and it's not mere coincidence. People tend to surround themselves with objects that reflect the place and segment of society where they are or would like to be. Consumption just fills them with the desired products.

Take this promotional for Philip Stark's Icon apartment building in Vallarta... I prefer the Paris Hilton room renovation (here some unseen pictures). By the way, it confirms my theories that Paris may be the lost evil twin of Philip... the only thing missing on these renders is a cradle for Tinkerbell... or maybe the idea is for him to sleep on Eero Aarnio's bubble chair!

Not all of emotional design is just economic status, nor because it's emotional means people who buy "emotional"items are Emos. Like I said, some people are into "healthy food"... it doesn't matter if they are actually fit and healthy or morbidly overweighted. Those are the ones who want to belong to the "healthy people" club. Then, there's the "extreme makeover" club... those who want to look and live like Barbie and Ken. There are also Otaku or Geeks (by the way, check out the Geek variables... it may be a good idea to find out my code) and many other groups to which people wants to identify with.
The logic of what is sometimes called, in typically 'pedantic' language, the 'reading' of a work of art, offers an objective basis for this opposition. Consumption is, in this case, a stage in a process of communication, that is an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher or code. In a sense, one can say that the capacity to see (voir) is a function of the knowledge (savoir ), or concepts, that is, the words, that are available to name visible things, and which are, as it were, programmes for perception. A work of art has meaning and interest only for someone who possesses the cultural competence, that is, the code, into which it is encoded. Pierre Bourdieu
What it means is, that everyone of those groups has a cultural code that is unique to that group. Works of art, objects, slang and many other cultural expressions use those codes. That's the reason why certain objects or kinds of music are pleasant or unpleasant for us, it depends if we are able to decipher that code (cultural competence). Emotional design is about finding codes that can awaken pleasant emotions, like I said... the stuff that can make a need become a want... or make a want out of no need.

Cultural design on the other hand, is not about finding out the emotional gaps, is about the cultural practices. Domus Academy has just launched a Master in Cultural Experience Design. Their prospectus explains very well the 4 elements of Cultural Design:
This module intends to refine the sensitivity towards the cultural experience, through the encounter of the knowledge on productions with representative methods of the talent in the various cultural activities.

This module offers a base of knowledge and solutions to select and use the most innovative technologies in order to develop cultural experiences by improving them.

This module provides the tools to understand the various aspects and peculiarities characterising subjects and producers of cultural experiences.

This module is aimed at building competence in the creation of value within a very special and delicate field, where usage can’t generate consumption.

MED has the objective to train designers-managers designing tools for fruition and communication, organising and managing experiences, by proposing new and technologically advanced modalities to enhance the cultural goods. In this framework, the designers-managers will also acquire the skills to create new cultural meanings for the recently industrially developed cities.
Although the MED is somehow focused on the tourism industry, the idea that cultural experiences (here I am referring to objects and not touristic places) can be managed, planned, and designed to generate a planned result (in this case consumption) confirms the point that objects become meaningful or meaningless through their usage. It means, that design constraints should also consider the cultural value, and cultural practices associated with those products. At the end, it's not form or function what makes a product valuable.

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