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Guest csven

Is Unreasonable Design Arrogance Hurting The Profession?

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Guest csven

I've been honestly amazed at most designers' lack of knowledge about rapid manufacturing techniques; especially since the technology opens up so many possibilities for the future of the design profession. I read all this stuff about "Design Thinking" and how "business needs to listen to (industrial) designers", yet I don't see much reason for them to take the people in the profession seriously. Most designers, frankly, aren't very well educated in the systems and methodologies favored by corporations. Many designers barely have an understanding of the basic science and engineering that makes many of their designs possible. Yet the indignation among the design community is palpable. And for me, at least, it can reach embarrassing levels. So much so I find myself distancing myself from it.

 

So yesterday I was reading this: "Un-Readymades: From Object to Experience. A study of mass customization from the perspective of industrial design" (Link) and one question in particular:

Why do most industrial designers neglect the customization and self-impression trend? Do design schools educate your designers in these new topics?
His answer, including calling out design "elitism", struck me. Read it for yourself.

 

So, is unreasonable, elitist arrogance and an unwillingness to give up control over design the reason so few designers exhibit an interest in technology which, by its nature, opens up the profession to "amateurs" who "should not be allowed" to design; just as desktop publishing opened up graphic design and blogging tools opened up journalism to amateurs? Or is it fear that some of those unworthy amateurs will outclass those who've spent time and money earning a diploma? Or is it something else?

 

. . .

 

(btw, yes, I myself am arrogant. I concede that. I'm of the opinion that designers need to be reasonably arrogant ... to have a sufficiently thick skin ... to deal with the negative stuff they'll invariable receive during their career. But I also have an education, a portfolio, and a reputation to back it up. So I make no apologies. And for those who might take offense... deal with it or move on. My intention here is not to merely attack the profession. That gains me nothing, and I am as selfish as the next person. Rather, I'd like the profession to wake up to what's going on so that we can all benefit. And in order to do that, I believe some level of perhaps uncomfortable candor needs to be employed.)

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Guest BigJoe

I suggest we start with a fundamental shift in education from "design thinking" to "design doing." When you start actually making products, the importance of manufacturing processes and capabilities becomes more and more important. Or maybe it's a question of responsibility. How many times have you heard "You're the engineer, you figure it out." ?

 

Or is it fear that some of those unworthy amateurs will outclass those who've spent time and money earning a diploma?

Heh, I even see this in engineering. One of my friends is a kickass product design engineer but doesn't have a degree. He's been turned down from many jobs where he was more qualified than the person doing the hiring. Comical and sad.

 

Everyone is a designer. Some are better than others, regardless of education.

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Why do most industrial designers neglect the customization and self-impression trend?

 

What exactly is this based upon though? I'm not saying it's wrong, just asking for some elaboration.

 

csven, what would you like to see designers do with RP? Do you suggest that that we should be seeing more products designed as a platform, say, with a modular interface so that the end-user can design the shell themselves, RP it, and stick on the product?

 

I personally find this idea challenging, but am very skeptical and seriously doubt it could reach profitable popularity. I'll hold my further thoughts for after any replies though, because I've got a funny feeling I may have missed the point of thread.

 

 

Sidenote: I recently saw a post, on Core I think, about a company releasing their CAD files for their product to the public, suggesting that this would open up for a customization community making the design open source. Can't for the life of me remember the name of the company or what the product was though.

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Hey, this is exactly what I am trying to do with my project. Thanks for the find csven!

 

Well the reason to elicit the creativity in the end user is because it is more functional to society as a whole. What I mean is that design thinking which is a special kind of thinking that is solution base thinking or problem solving. You ideate and brain storm to come up with new ideas. Why this matter is because it is about the development of the artificial, the world we want it to be. It is beleived that we need to take action and lead because it is more productive. Further more, it is also a high priority as a strategy to fight against global warming. Ezio manzini, a world expert in sustainability expressed in his book Sustainable Everyday, to achieve a higher level of effectiveness it requires a social change, a change in all people. People should take more action and be more creative through the designerly ways of knowing.

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Guest toodef1

Csven - you've raised some highly valid points. I agree with you that, out of degree, an designers understanding of the methods used in corps is next to nothing. I'm noticing a massive void in what I know, and what I need to know to perform in the consulting/corp environment.

 

The point on RP stuff ? Sure -I can see where your coming from, but remember at uni are we actually making real products ? Do we go through the complete process for manufacturing ? No. So the lack of knowledge in this area is a given. Not sure if its the norm elsewhere, but we had no RP machine at Uni. How is one to gain experience and knowledge of a process without engaging in it ? Once again - 90% of uni projects would never develop to the stage where RP parts would be built.

 

I fully agree with you on the basic principles of science and engineering point. . . but how far do you go within educational context of an ID degree, who's core goal (one would think) would be to educate the student in Usability/Functionality/Form ? Again how often are parts built at uni ? As you know its an expensive process to tool up and create the most commonly (arguably) designed for process of injection molding. So we shouldn't be unfairly punished for not having experience and engagement with these processes.

 

On customization - I read the article, and at the end of the day, he's still selling a product it comes across as a bit sales pitchy to me. I think he has some good points, and its a unique perspective, but hardly appropriate for mass produced products. I'm not really interested in changing the face plate of my cordless drill, and as you quite rightly point out, customization has become a trend, when was the last time you changed your cell phone faceplate ?

 

By distancing and ignoring the issues isn't helping solve any of the points you raise ! (although this healthy discussion is a good way to start! )

 

I'm not so sure designers need to be arrogant at all. We definitly need to have some balls tho, and a thick skin, so to speak is required to see past the perceived negative nature of critique as a personal attack, for genuine feeback on how to improve a design. If you've designed something for you, and exactly to how you want and think it should be then sure, and someone comes and disaproves a shoots it all the way down to New Zealand you WILL take it as a personal attack, and arrogance being the ego's natural form of defence.

 

You say the proffession needs to wake up ?Wake up to what exactly ? Perhaps we need less arrogant people such as your self (you said it!) that sit on the pedestal of experience, and more of those with wisdom who see the virtue of willing to open up and share their experiences and knowledge for the benefit of the community.

 

I'll go out on a limb and say ID's going through a pretty fundemental change at the moment. Specifically the level of environmental consideration within the design process over the next 5-10 years is going to be huge weather we like it or not - either through progressive companies responding demand from a social change, or through government legislation making products meet hard (in todays context) environmental standards.

 

There is a HUGE amount of content and tools for the modern designer to learn think and consider, software, hardware, manufacturing procesess, drawing, thinking, business elements, hand sculpting, CAD modelling - it takes roughly TEN years for a human to become an expert in a given subject - thats alot of learning and failing !

 

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

Cheers, Hayden

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Guest csven

Encouraging responses. So first off, thank you.

 

@engio - this personal observation is broad-based as I'm unaware that a legitimate poll has been taken (though if there is one, I'd appreciate knowing of it).

 

First, I hear very little of rapid-manufacturing and its potential at a professional level (aside from the occasional conference or exhibit). I suspect this is because people are too busy surviving today to give much thought for the coming years. I can understand this, but I can only excuse it to a degree.

 

Second, I read very little of the topic online; whether on "design" sites, blogs or forums. I've kept a feed to some Technorati search terms for well over a year now, and it's extremely rare for this topic to pop up on designer sites. As to forums, the discussions are generally few and far between (fwiw, I was the first moderator over on Core77 so I've been following things for a while now).

 

To answer: "csven, what would you like to see designers do with RP?", I'm not saying anyone should "do" anything at this stage. I am wondering why there isn't much discussion of the technologies and the concurrent changes in the business environment which potentially affect the whole design game. To me an analogy would be horse carriage builders ignoring the development of the gasoline engine. From my perspective, the various blogs and forums should be lit up with discussions on the future potentials and all the anticipated ramifications. I don't see that. If you do, please point them out.

 

(btw, the company is OpenMoko.)

 

-

 

@bowlofnoodle - my personal opinion is that "design thinking" is a load of bull. I won't go into it here, but I do explain why I think this over on my blog, including this heavily-trafficked entry - Why “Design Thinking” Makes No Sense To This Designer (Link). Don't mean to cut you off, but that's a whole can of worms and deserving of its own thread.

 

-

 

@toodef1 - I'm not sure I understand. Are you suggesting that not having RP machines at university is the reason for the general lack discourse on the process and its potential to affect the business environment in which we operate? Or that not having any machines is an excuse for not understanding the basics of manufacturing? That seems a rather severe conclusion, so I must not understand you.

 

Personally, I didn't have an RP machine (or any other manufacturing machine... or even 3D design software) when I went to school. But we did have classes on manufacturing processes and took a few field trips. And I was aware through my reading and internships of 3D software. My point here isn't expertise, but a perceived lack of discourse regarding these things.

 

As to the "core goal", assuming they are Usability/Functionality/Form, the practical issue remains: how is it fabricated? The profession is (currently) industrial design; not impossible design. Yet if any fabrication method will break off the old "industrial" tag and allow us to pursue that core goal, it's rapid manufacturing. So RM is actually a vehicle for more effectively achieving our "core goal". Yet... ?

 

 

"are we actually making real products". Interesting. You seem to equate "real products" with the use of widely-established and entrenched industrial processes. You focus on whether a process is "appropriate for mass produced products". Why? Is mass produced product - designed to function at mediocre levels in order to satisfy the widest possible consumer requirements - the only option for this profession? I, for one, don't care to limit myself in this way. And if so, why are so many "star" designers known more for individual pieces than mass-stuff (e.g. Newsom and his lounge, or his jet, or his concept car)? Seems as if we already have an identity problem (potentially addressed by the "supernormal" meme, but we'll see where that goes).

 

And afaic, "thick skin" == arrogance. You don't have one without the other.

 

"You say the proffession needs to wake up ?Wake up to what exactly ?" - to a changing world. Clinging to happy talk from people like Bruce Nussbaum (who rolls the same "design has won" proclamation out with some repetition, seems more like a trip to the therapist: "Oh. Poor designer. No one listens to you. Not marketing. Not engineering. Not manufacturing. Not sales. Not even your parents who wanted you to be a doctor. But it's going to be okay. Designers will be heroes any day now." Gag.)

 

First, I'd say we should wake up and take responsibility. If a school doesn't teach something a design student feels is important, they should take it upon themselves to learn it instead of waiting to be spoon fed. No RP machine in the shop? Fine. Locate one somewhere and ask for a tour. Too many people seem to want things handed to them (they can't even be bothered to use a search engine sometimes).

 

Second, be aware of the changes going on around all of us. Most especially business changes. In advertising. In marketing. In distribution. This profession doesn't operate in a vacuum. Yet I rarely see anyone discussing, for example, policy changes at eBay or the rise of Etsy or Amazon's new service offerings. Alone they might seem irrelevant and boring. Coupled with production advances (both in fabbing and in low-volume tooling) these things take on significance. Unless of course the goal of every designer is to get a cubicle job designing for someone else... and being forced to respond to their uneducated design input (and most of us in the profession know what that feels like; let the Buyer decide what's best for those consumers... until the product flops). Is that our lot in life? To hope for the occasional pat on the head while we put in long hours, even though we know the chances of rising to a C-level position are slim to none? IDers below the glass ceiling don't make the call on environmental issues inside corporations. Fact of life, folks.

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Guest csven

btw, before we get too far onto other, related topics, I wanted to repeat the core question triggered by the entry on the Mass Customization site:

 

So, is unreasonable, elitist arrogance and an unwillingness to give up control over design the reason so few designers exhibit an interest in technology which, by its nature, opens up the profession to "amateurs" who "should not be allowed" to design; just as desktop publishing opened up graphic design and blogging tools opened up journalism to amateurs? Or is it fear that some of those unworthy amateurs will outclass those who've spent time and money earning a diploma? Or is it something else?

 

-

 

{Note: One way to diffuse this question is to provide evidence that industrial designers are actively taking an interest in the technology and the potential it has to remake the profession. Feel free to do so. I'd be happy to learn of it.}

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Everybody can design.Actually you dont need to have a diploma to make a product design in some cases.Diploma is a advantage on going to work to industry it is your chance.I saw a lot of designers dont have a diploma howvever it is going well because of knowledge comming from experience.

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Guest csven
Everybody can design.
Excerpt from something I recently wrote for a UK website (goes up this weekend):

 

During this exercise a former colleague contacted me, and while conversing we stumbled around the periphery of a hot topic among some communities: design thinking. His "pro" approach was that designers are trained, and my "con" approach is that the whole idea is elitist crap and that each and every human being is born a designer.

 

Many professional designers would argue the point on some level. Question is: does this attitude affect a willingness to even consider customizable design, as suggested by Martin Konrad?

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Guest benzo

I'm in my final year of a Product and Furniture Design Degree Course.

 

I understand that their is a lack of knowledge about rapid manufacturing techniques from new designers from education.

 

But this maybe due to the fact that design universities still admire the Bauhaus train of thought. They consider the manufacturing techniques will limit the design, which is not the case anymore. However the design is very rarely started by the manufacturing techniques available, so universities spend time teaching design philosophy and techniques that include problem solving. As once a design is complete then we are encouraged to look at the best manufacturing route possible.

 

Thus their is an idea from experience in the industry the designers should become more familiar with the manufacturing process available and the pros and cons of rapid manufacturing techniques???

 

 

 

----------------------\ ON A DIFFERENT SUBJECT......

Does anyone know a good book on all the manufacturing techniques possible with pros and cons and av costs for tooling etc???

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Guest toodef1

Csven. - Great response and some very good points. I'm gonna shower and brekkie and then reply !

 

 

h

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Guest jjdon

Very interesting thread. I would say it's become "the usual rant" in recent years. Supposedly trained people who aren't. I'm a professional in my field of jewelry (35+yrs), I'm a bit humbled by the space-shuttle designers here. But much of design is a state of mind. In university jewelry classes, they teach university jewelry. It has no connection to the world's jewelry industry whatsoever, and jobs go overseas because there are no trained people, just "toy" jewelers. I have machinist friends who talk about ME's who can't use a screwdriver, and in their day they were taking apart tractors to see how they worked. Drive down the freeway and count how many interchanges you run into that looked good on paper but it never occured to them that actual cars were going to drive through them. It's true - anybody can design a business card. It's not true that anybody can do what CSVEN is talking about - be a well rounded, mature designer who knows his field, not just the drawing board - sometimes that field is space shuttles...... I think the reasons are many: The television society is real - people read less or not at all, maybe not in school but I grew up reading 5 books/week, every week. American Universities are getting more and more self-absorbed and disconnected from reality all the time. Every field complains that they aren't delivering quality people (well, maybe MBAs).... The notion that one can design a ball point pen without knowing how pens are made is bizarre - especially to me, a manufacturer. The problem is that nobody in the university bothered to find out, and those are the teachers. Design and production must work hand in hand or it's just a huge waste of everyone's time. Anyway, just some thoughts - I'm with ya for what it's worth....

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Guest toodef1

Ok - Ill ry best to keep this breif and to the point.

 

First, I hear very little of rapid-manufacturing and its potential at a professional level (aside from the occasional conference or exhibit). I suspect this is because people are too busy surviving today to give much thought for the coming years. I can understand this, but I can only excuse it to a degree.

 

I agree - there is fairly little discussion on RP topics. Perhaps partly because the majority of people here are students, and have yet to use it, perhaps also because of the confidential nature of product development RP parts, etc aren't put up for all and sundry too see, and when the product is completed we get nice studio images/renderings.

 

There's no ONE reason for the percieved lack of knowledge on Rapid Manufacturing. I'll stick to my point that having access to the technology is killer. The year before we got a laser cutter at uni, barely anyone would outsource parts, then suddenly EVERYTHING, an I mean bloody everything including the Graphic Design chumps coming over to use ! So access and the ability to experiment as im sure you know is an important part of the learning process.

 

The horse and cart analogy is off. That type of shift would be more like ID ignoring the potential of nanotechnology (a topic id love to discuss in another place)

 

 

As to the "core goal", assuming they are Usability/Functionality/Form, the practical issue remains: how is it fabricated? The profession is (currently) industrial design; not impossible design. Yet if any fabrication method will break off the old "industrial" tag and allow us to pursue that core goal, it's rapid manufacturing. So RM is actually a vehicle for more effectively achieving our "core goal". Yet... ?

 

Nice points. I'll argue that perhaps theres a new shift amongst certain designers - who are tired off creating products with no fundamental change in function, are instead thinking more 'what if's'. Perhaps a new title could be 'Applied Conceptual Designer" I also believe 'Industrial Design' is a far out dated term, with it's roots too firmly saturated in the processes theory of the profession in the early part of the 20th century. ID (for want of a better title!) as a profession, is moving away from answering solely to technical & production needs of (product) creation.

 

Insert the book 'Natural Capitialsim' for a good read on this topic.

 

"are we actually making real products". Interesting. You seem to equate "real products" with the use of widely-established and entrenched industrial processes. You focus on whether a process is "appropriate for mass produced products". Why? Is mass produced product - designed to function at mediocre levels in order to satisfy the widest possible consumer requirements - the only option for this profession? I, for one, don't care to limit myself in this way. And if so, why are so many "star" designers known more for individual pieces than mass-stuff (e.g. Newsom and his lounge, or his jet, or his concept car)? Seems as if we already have an identity problem (potentially addressed by the "supernormal" meme, but we'll see where that goes).

 

Woooooah - No way ! Mass produced product, as you say aims to satisy the most people possible. I won't limit myself to this either, theres plenty of other categories for designers to work in, defence, specialized professional equipment etc. Star designers as a whole have a strong personal design philosophy, which they apply to said object/s - and this becomes the 'brand' so to speak. In contrast to corp designers, who's personal design philosophy is more often broken down in favour of corporate & branding philosophy.

 

"You say the proffession needs to wake up ?Wake up to what exactly ?" - to a changing world. Clinging to happy talk from people like Bruce Nussbaum (who rolls the same "design has won" proclamation out with some repetition, seems more like a trip to the therapist: "Oh. Poor designer. No one listens to you. Not marketing. Not engineering. Not manufacturing. Not sales. Not even your parents who wanted you to be a doctor. But it's going to be okay. Designers will be heroes any day now." Gag.)

 

First, I'd say we should wake up and take responsibility. If a school doesn't teach something a design student feels is important, they should take it upon themselves to learn it instead of waiting to be spoon fed. No RP machine in the shop? Fine. Locate one somewhere and ask for a tour. Too many people seem to want things handed to them (they can't even be bothered to use a search engine sometimes).

 

Second, be aware of the changes going on around all of us. Most especially business changes. In advertising. In marketing. In distribution. This profession doesn't operate in a vacuum. Yet I rarely see anyone discussing, for example, policy changes at eBay or the rise of Etsy or Amazon's new service offerings. Alone they might seem irrelevant and boring. Coupled with production advances (both in fabbing and in low-volume tooling) these things take on significance. Unless of course the goal of every designer is to get a cubicle job designing for someone else... and being forced to respond to their uneducated design input (and most of us in the profession know what that feels like; let the Buyer decide what's best for those consumers... until the product flops). Is that our lot in life? To hope for the occasional pat on the head while we put in long hours, even though we know the chances of rising to a C-level position are slim to none? IDers below the glass ceiling don't make the call on environmental issues inside corporations. Fact of life, folks.

 

Jees I agree, Bruce's probably trying to sell something ! But as you mention in your comment to him, it's all to easy to add 'design' to a product/service without ACTUALLY putting any additional consideration into it. That's essentially what we do, put more consideration to the elements surrounding the creation of the product, to better increase its value to it's user/environment/company/manufacturer/etc.

 

Agreed. Too many people have silver spoons in there mouths (and want it delivered with napkin on a (silver) plate! Agreed. Sitting a cubicle (workshop) slaving your balls off sanding or cranking out amazing concepts, and for them to be thrown out, and then be demonised for average work FULLY sucks. But, people have to live and most people (and this is amplifed with dependents etc) will except the security of an average job, over the fear of failing. It's why so few make to the top of any discipline.

 

 

And finally ! Don't be so quick to judge the young'ns soo to speak - theres alot to take in these days, and anyway its impossible to know it all ! I wouldn't even be able to discuss some of the points we've raised here a year or two ago, however as i've gained professional experience and knowledge new perspectives have been uncovered.

 

Great discussion. Keep it coming. !

 

Hayden

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