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Guest eileen_81

Designers Duty?

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Guest eileen_81

Hi all,

 

I‘m a german student and I analyse the modern designers duties for a project.

 

And I‘m very interest in your opinion about this general statement:

 

”Designers have a dual duty contractually to their clients and morally to the later users

and recipients of their work.“

 

What do you think?

Are these facts the limits and cornerstones of our work?

Perhaps should we disassociate from these controls to work really creative?

 

Or today is our major task the sustainability and the first design‘s duty to save the ecosystem?

No longer is sustainability nice to have, it is absolutely essential to the design process.

How can we ensure that we use the limited and precious resources we do have without

compromising the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed?

How do we create sustainable solutions that deliver - not only to the population but to the

demands of businesses?

 

You opinion is greatly appreciated for my project!

 

Best regards from Germany

Eileen

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Guest bagaudae

I wouldn`t say we have a dual duty. In fact we have far more duties. It`s about functionality, safety, sustainability, aesthetics, misuse, crime, manufacture and a few other i`m not mentioning. This are all aspects we have to consider while making the user happy and the client rich. All of these constraints forces our class to be even more creative than ever. Theoretically, if the consumer/user is satisfied with the product, the client will benefit from it. In the end, i think it comes to "ethics vs €$£"

 

I don`t think that sustainability is our major task, in fact, it should n`t be a task, it should be an absolute requirement. The same way functionality is.

 

For the second last question, maybe we should change "the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed". Maybe that is the problem. Do we really need all that we consume? The way we consume?

 

And for the last, i really don`t know the winning formula that will do the job every time. But i would like to know it if you find it. :) While we wait, we can be aware of materials and it`s application, keep in mind the processing and a bit of the whole picture while we go along the process of developing products. Where will it be built?, how will it affect the population where it is being built?, where does the materials come from? What will people do when the product dies? Where will it go? How much energy will it consume during its life time? And i feel i could keep on going.... its a lot of work and a lot of responsibility, but it is also very important and needed.

 

 

EDIT: OH! and welcome to the forums! :welcome:

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Guest Paul Lemke

I completely disagree with all of most of your statements. If you use these "limits" you will never be a good product designer. It is a designer's job to fulfill all of these requirements but it must never be primary. A good designer designs and to hell with the people that don't like it.

 

I will also state that "sustainability" is not clearly defined and what is sustainable today is not sustainable tomorrow. Designers minimum requirement is the customer but his maximum is the limit of his capabilities in the set of constraints reality has placed upon him.

 

I will ask you a few questions:

 

Who are these others you speak of? (The whole of the human race? Does it include the Amish? Or the people who think IPODs are worthless? How are you suppose to poll them all? The majority of what? Customers in the market? Customers in the country?)

 

How do you define your objective clearly?

 

Is it your job to do work you are not hired for and the duty of the customer to pay more than is required because you think it is necessary?

 

What of government standards that require you to use unsustainable material for safety requirements?

 

Do you spend time on the project figuring out how to get the government to OK new material standards?

 

A really good book about this is "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. If you are an independent free thinker you'll like it. If you are dependent upon the whole of mankind for the answers to your questions then you will design nothing because who are you to know all of mankind?

 

This is not to say that inefficiency should not be questioned. It should and you should do your best that you can but it must never be a primary concern. Otherwise your a slave to society's whims and you will be miserable.

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Guest Paul Lemke

I will also say that people who see it as important are people who aren't doing their immediate work they were highered for they are trying to do the job of an imaginary savior or saint. If people really wanted high mpg cars they would have sold better during the 1990s and more effort would have been put into making them. It has nothing to do with the designers and everything to do with the choices of buyers. If there is no market then there is no product to sell on that market. All of the green technologies are government subsidized pork projects that only supply inefficient energy at the cost to the poverty stricken people in that society. When energy prices go up the poor are the first to feel the effects.

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Guest bagaudae

Gee!!! I`m kind of short on time, so I will come back later for further discussion. But just let me say that i disagree with almost everything Paul said. Let me just comment one tiny piece:

 

"If you use these "limits" you will never be a good product designer. It is a designer's job to fulfill all of these requirements but it must never be primary. A good designer designs and to hell with the people that don't like it."

 

Well, that`s just the opposite!! if you do not take those factors in account, you will never be a good product designer, and i won`t go further and tell that you will never be a good person, because i don`t know you so i don`t have the right to make such statement. But that`s something one could think with these comments.

 

And by the way, sustainable development is kind of well defined. Our knowledge is not complete (and never will be) so new things come up with new scientific breakthroughs.

 

 

Some hints on sustainability:

 

Environment

Society

Economy

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as popular as it is to design products which are eco-friendly the reality is that most client's don't care about anything more than their bottom line and how much it is going to cost . . . green products and materials are great as long as they are competitive cost wise like bamboo because it cheap, strong and grows fast. The only way more expensive eco-friendly products can be justified is through enhanced publicity and good PR.

 

With that said though i think its a designers responsibility to push the envelope when it comes to design and sometimes you can even surprise yourself and more importantly your client for that matter with a sustainable approach that makes sense

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Guest bagaudae
(...)

 

With that said though i think its a designers responsibility to push the envelope when it comes to design and sometimes you can even surprise yourself and more importantly your client for that matter with a sustainable approach that makes sense

 

My point exactly, there are a lot of variables and many times we will not be able to reach a satisfying solution. But that`s not an excuse to "don`t care".

 

 

And maybe i still have that "student vision". Many times that vision is a bit off reality.... hope that`s not the case.

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Yep. Your vision is way of reality :)

 

Sorry, but as a 20 year professional I have never, ever been asked to consider green issues in product design except when the product I was designing was AIMED at exploiting a green issue like recycling. That is not to say I don't think it is important. There are plenty of things designers can do to minimise the environmental impact of a product, but the harsh reality is that 99% of the time it comes down to costs.

 

As far as I am concerend the only duty a designer has is to the person paying their salary or fees. It is our PROFESSIONAL duty to do this. Designers like to moan about not being taken seriously compared to lawyers and accountants. Well do you see a defence lawyer turning changing jobs becuase they got their guilty client off? Do you see an accountant bemoaning the fact that they saved their corporate client £2m in taxes by advising them to claim revenues in a different area? No. If as a profession designers wish to be taken seriously and get to the tops of corporations then we have to get off our egos and get real and ensure that our number one duty is ensuring our customers make money.

 

Only once you are at the top of any organsiation can you force change through. And by the time you get there you might have picked up a bit of economic reality along the way.

 

I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of green issues here as the question was about a designer's duty, but it needs to be recognised that consumer product design is probably one of the most damaging industries in environmental terms. Do we really need another mop and brush set, another kettle, another car design, another computer? No. All the dressing up in eco credentials does not change the fact that we are a throwaway consumer society in the west. Tell me one person on this forum who - honestly - would not rather earn lots of money, live in a big detached house and drive a large luxury car than live in a small flat and have no money and work on a production line somewhere?

 

It is interesting that in the current recession, as budgets are getting cut and companies go down, a lot of the headline green issues seem to be overlooked. In fact the reverse is true (as I am finding). For years UK companies have moved production overseas to China. Now as sales volumes plummet, they need to react faster and now with the low pound UK based toolmakers are snowed under with work (well the ones I deal with are). Even UK moulders are competitive now thanks to the combination of low pound and rising costs in places like China. But this change is not drivenm by consumers it is driven by economic survival.

 

And there is the thing. If you want a truly sustainable product, it needs to be made locally, sold locally and used locally. Is it not ironic that the consumer demand in the west during the good times led to companies having to cut prices and move production to lowest cost suppliers in China? If consumers were more realistic and prepared to pay just a few percentage points more, manufacturing would have stayed where it was most sustainable in many smaller companies. The large multinationals will always move production around based on costs or local tax conditions.

 

So, if you are a true ecologist, pay more for your products and ask where they come from. Everybody likes a bargain - I'm no different - but don't then complain when you find that in fact your shiny branded product was made in some unregulated factory in the developing nations and has the carbon footprint the size of an elephant!

 

But - all that is NOT the designer's duty, all that is the consumer's duty. If the consumers demand change then the designer can help facilitate that change for their customer.

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Guest bagaudae

I`ll keep my poetic beliefs a while longer.

 

I still have a few months before i`m thrown into the jungle. Not that i was unaware of how reality works, but as a student, i still get to do things right (or at least how i believe them to be right). And i hope i will always keep the idea that all those considerations, are in fact important.

 

:ermm:

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There is no harm in being idealistic - especially if you can steer your career into areas where you can be influential. Just don't always expect others to agree with you :)

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Guest matt___

@KQD: I have to say, your post is one of the most depressing things I've ever read. If I really thought that your vision was the only possible reality for a working designer, I would probably pack it in tomorrow.

 

I don't know if it's because you're in the UK, or it's just your clients, but working in the Nordic countries virtually every project I'm involved in has a requirement for 'green issues'. Whether that's design for disassembly to make WEEE compliance easier, or design to reduce packaging volume, or the latest project I worked on which includes an alternative charging method. And I don't in any way consider myself to be a green design expert or advertise myself as such, that's just how the projects come in.

 

I also have a big problem with your contention that the designer's only obligation should be to the paying client. I can think of many situations where this shouldn't be the case:

 

The client asks you to design something which would be dangerous or illegal

The client gives you a competitor product and says "make it as much like this as possible"

The client intends to use sweatshop labour to reduce costs

The client hasn't done any market research, they believe they know what the market wants already

The client isn't interested in ergonomics or usage patterns, just aesthetics

The client isn't interested in real design development, they just want it done fast and cheap

The client isn't interested in prototyping or testing, they just want the product released

 

I'm sure there are others. In all these situations it's of course possible to say you would try to convince the client that it's in their interest to do things differently. But if they refuse you're faced with the question of whether your only obligation is to the person paying. Are you really saying you would be happy to put your name and professional reputation behind such a product? If my belief that I sometimes know more about design and consumer behaviour than the client is 'designer ego' then so be it. The thing is, all my clients seem to appreciate that ego, although they call it expertise. In the same way, I guess, that a defendant who is acquitted doesn't go round talking about their lawyer's ego.

 

And incidentally you're characterisation of lawyers is wrong, there are many who refuse to represent certain clients; there are also many who choose to work for charities, human rights organisations, miscarriages of justice etc. But more fundamentally, a person who gets off isn't guilty, they're innocent, even if they committed the crime. That's one of the basic precepts of Western law. If you took the same attitude in design, it would mean a product which didn't sell, which consumers couldn't understand how to use, which polluted the environment and was dangerous to third parties would still be good design provided it was exactly what the client asked for. I can't see how that's a good thing for the design profession.

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Guest bagaudae

Seems like i`m the only student debating this.... has everyone gone on vacation already? I still have 2 months before the end of the year. I sure would like to hear some other students on this one.

 

 

@matt

 

"The client asks you to design something which would be dangerous or illegal

The client gives you a competitor product and says "make it as much like this as possible"

The client hasn't done any market research, they believe they know what the market wants already

The client isn't interested in ergonomics or usage patterns, just aesthetics

The client isn't interested in real design development, they just want it done fast and cheap"

 

I know for a fact that most local clients will ask me for one or more of this. colleagues already on the job have all complained about it. it`s almost surprising when it doesn`t happen. But i`m in Portugal and the value of a proper design strategy is yet to be discovered. Maybe that`s why Portugal is always on the tail of any European statistic (except for wine consumption). Maybe thats what bugs me so much with the "don`t care/nothing i can do to fight it" policy. I will continue to try and make the best products i can, by "best" i mean the best morally and market wise possible.

 

In the end it will probably come down to how bad i need the client and €€€. Sadly as it is.

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Matt,

 

My location has nothing to do with it, and respectfully I think you are misunderstanding my points, or perhaps rather I am not explaining them clearly enough.

 

When I said I have not been asked to consider green issues this was true. But of course I am asked to consider WEEE directives, packaging volume etc. But the key thing that drives these is economics and legislation not a desire by the customer to be green. Perhaps that is the difference? I am clear in my head and experience that legislation drives green design more than any other factor, so to my mind this is not green design it is designing to a statutory requirement - which is my duty.

 

Your list of "when not to design to" points is interesting as well. Aside from the illegal and sweat shop labour ones (which frankly are ridiculous statements), the rest I face all the time and to be frank I have no issue with designing to these criteria. I take the attitide that the customer is paying me to do a job, so I do it to best of my abilities. If they really want to go straight to market with no market research, no prototypes and similar to another product then so be it. I have to say that when I do these jobs you would be surprised how successful those projects are.

 

My criteria for success Matt is does the product sell, is the customer happy, do they return to me for further work. If you have some other criteria for your professional life please share it.

 

If you took the same attitude in design, it would mean a product which didn't sell, which consumers couldn't understand how to use, which polluted the environment and was dangerous to third parties would still be good design provided it was exactly what the client asked for. I can't see how that's a good thing for the design profession.

 

Sorry I had to highlight that bit as it is complete nonsense. You seem to imply by this that if I choose to work for customers who I respect to have some judgement and level of understanding in their markets, who may give me a tight brief to work to (covering many of the no go areas you highlighted) that the resultant product will be all these things above? Are you serious? That is one giant leap of misunderstanding. As I think I have clearly stated, my criteria for success is a happy customer and I don't know any who would be happy if they did any of the above.

 

Actually your list these perfectly describes a lot of the junk that permeates the design sector these days - art pieces, expensive, needing to be interpreted like a piece of modern art, made from unsustainable raw materials and energy intensive processes and likely to spear you in the balls if you sit on it the wrong way!

 

But aside from all that you missed my main point. It is, in my opinion, not the designers duty to spearhead a revolution in eco design or any other kind of design come to that. It is their duty to respond to the best of their abilities to the task asked of them by their employer. THAT is what ANY professional does (or should do). As soon as a professional goes off piste away from the task they have been asked to do they are not, in my opinion a professional.

 

That is my opinion, that is how I run my business. It may not be what others believe and they are entitled to their own opinions and I respect them for it.

 

EDIT - I meant to add that if and when the designer becomes the employer by designing and manufacturing for themselves, then you can tick all the boxes you want. But the thing is, it is a hell of a lot easier (in terms of what you need to do and what risks you need to take) being a designer than running a manufacturing business and selling a product. Which is why so few designers actually do take the leap to the manufacturing side and practise what they preach. I tried it. I failed. I learned a lot from the experience and as such I have greater empathy with customers who have to balance the books and make decisions that may mean jobs lost or diverting resources to other other areas.

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There is no harm in being idealistic - especially if you can steer your career into areas where you can be influential. Just don't always expect others to agree with you :)

 

Agree 100% correct

 

The client asks you to design something which would be dangerous or illegal

The client gives you a competitor product and says "make it as much like this as possible"

The client intends to use sweatshop labour to reduce costs

The client hasn't done any market research, they believe they know what the market wants already

The client isn't interested in ergonomics or usage patterns, just aesthetics

The client isn't interested in real design development, they just want it done fast and cheap

The client isn't interested in prototyping or testing, they just want the product released

@Matt Yes all the Points you have there I have done and do still.

 

$$ MONEY $$ is the engine what turn the things around not heroic" save the world green products" but name it as you want to live in peace.

 

With the eyes of a client/company you be a good designer if:

 

-You be fast

-You be creative

-You be innovative

-You can do it cheaper

-You agree with his logic

-You turn of your ethic

 

That’s reality :

“hey Peter the apple keyboard sells like hell can we do a copy?”

“ hey Peter fake the label on the product from 300 to 500 nobody knows”

“ hey Peter find a way to save some cost or we lose a big costumer”

“ hey Peter we will risk the RMA use the recycling material it is 25% cheaper”

“hey Peter promise the manufacturer big volume so he pay the tooling’s”

“hey Peter in 4 weeks is exhibition you have any new product ready”

This some phone calls you will receive as freelancer on the production side. I never get any one who asked for environment friendly products. Reduce packing volume is not for save the environment it is the pressure of lower the cost (shipping expense).

 

BR

Peter

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Guest matt___

@KQD: Thanks for your considered reply. With respect to the green issues, I don't see why it matters what the reason is - legislative, economic, idealistic etc. Assuming you believe green issues are important (and you said that you did) it's a good thing you're being asked to design with those issues in mind. From your first post I understood that you'd never been asked to do those things.

 

You seem to imply by this that if I choose to work for customers who I respect to have some judgement and level of understanding in their markets, who may give me a tight brief to work to (covering many of the no go areas you highlighted) that the resultant product will be all these things above?

 

No, I wasn't implying that and I wouldn't insult you by suggesting it. I was just pointing out the logical conclusion of applying the same criteria to design as we do to the legal profession. A lawyer who gets a person acquitted is a success, even if that person committed the crime. I don't think that's a model we should be aiming to copy.

 

And I don't see why the illegal and sweat shop labour issues are ridiculous. I have been asked to design an 'illegal' product before, not maliciously but purely down to ignorance on the client's part; and since sweatshops exist I assume someone is designing for them.

 

tbc...

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