Friday, August 20, 2010

The Story of Stuff

This video talks about consumerism and the life of products...focusing on the US and their culture of materialism and consumerism.

This was quite a shocking video to watch with many of the statistics used being very confronting. It started with the process of extraction of raw materials from the earth. Many of these materials are sourced outside the US in developing countries. This has negative consequences for both the environment and also the countries these materials are sourced from. If the whole world were to consume resources like the US we would need at least 3 planet earths to provide this.

The next step is production. This is where energy is used to mix toxic chemicals with the natural resources to make products. There are over 100 000 synthetic chemicals used, only a hand full of which have been tested for effects on health and the environment. An example of this that the video used was Brominated Flame Retardants. These are used in many things like pillows to stop them catching on fire. These are also neurotoxin, which are toxic to the brain...yes each night we are resting our heads on chemicals toxic to our brains! Developed countries like the US don't want to be near the factories which are using all these toxic chemicals, so they too are moved to developing countries where the people who live there work with these chemicals, making both themselves and the environment sick.

Next is distribution. This is where the products are sold as cheap as they can. This means that money is taken from the previous steps, both extraction and manufacture, which both happen in developing countries, having negative effects there. 30% of kids in the Congo drop out of school to mine resources we need for our cheap products.

The driving force of this system is consumption. Ensuring consumption continues to grow is one of the top priorities for the US government. After September 11 George Bush could have advised any number of things to a country in mourning but instead he said to go out and spend. Only 1% of products purchased in the US is still being used 6 months later! This huge culture of consumption was created after World War II when the US economy needed to be stimulated. Planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence contribute greatly to this culture of consumerism. It is planned into products when they will break and become useless (planned obsolescence), or they will be seemed to be needed to be replaced (perceived obsolescence) by changing something about the product. This means that people can tell we haven't bought a new one of these products for a while and it is part of the consumerism culture to shun people who don't consume at this rate.

There is no way that people can keep all these products they keep buying, so there is an alarming amount of waste produced by each house. This either gets put in landfill, or burnt then put in landfill. Both these methods are terrible for the environment, and mean that all those resources that went into making the products are now useless. This is where recycling comes in. This helps out but does not completely solve the problem.

This is a very important video for people to watch, particularly designers. It is important for us to know the effect that our products have on the environment and people health. It is up to us to not design planned obsolescence or perceived obsolescence into our products to stop the rate of consumption. It is also important that we design our products so that when the do come to the end of there life they can be used for something else or an be very easily recycled.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Emotional Design: Donald Norman

In this video Donald Norman explains the importance of emotion in design. This is a beneficial video to watch because it makes you realise that even though a product may be very functional and work very well, it can still be ugly, thus sub-consciously making people think it is not a good product. He says "People used to say Norman's ok, but if you followed what he said everything would be usable, but it would be ugly."

He uses Philippe Starck's design of an orange juicer for Alessi which is very 'fun' in its form and aesthetics, but is practically useless. The one which Donald Norman owns is a gold plated special edition which has a warning label on it saying it shouldn't be used as a juicer because the acidity of the oranges will ruin the gold plating. Even though it has no function, he still owns one just because it's fun to look at.

Whenever we are interacting with a product, we are analysing it on three levels, Norman explains. First of all before we even touch the product our mind is performing visceral analysis. This is when we appreciate the beauty of a product subconsciously. Our brains are all biologically developed to like and dislike certain things, we like bright colours, dislike loud sounds, bitter tastes. Behavioural analysis also is sub-consciences, like our legs moving when we want to walk - we don't have to consciously tell our legs to move one in front of the other. In design this is when we feel we are in control. Norman uses the example of driving a high-performance sports car on a windy road, we like this because when we are driving around a corner we feel we are in complete control of the situation. The last level of analysis is the reflective. This is when we reflect on past experiences, things we have done, seen or heard about, and use this to form our opinion of the current situation.

Overall this video highlighted to me the fact that even if we didn't think about the emotion in a product we design, it will still have a emotion, even if we have not intended it to be there. This is hugely going to effect how people view and interact with the design, therefore it is a very important thing to harness. What Norman says "I always feel that pleasurable things work better" is very true for most people, they do automatically think that something that is enjoyable to look at and to use will work better.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Product Sketching: Sydney Design

Design Excellence

The 5x5 Chair is made of tiles made of xilith, a waste product mined with coal. Through the right treatment of this fragile and brittle material, Barbara Princic has designed a very elegant chair. It is called the 5x5 Chair because 5x5cm is the optimum size for these tiles in terms of being able to work with them. I think that it is excellent to be able to use a material that is usually just thrown out to create something functional like a chair.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Human Centred Design

I think that this video shows the direction in which design is heading. I feel that since things that we as designers design are generally used by humans or have some human interaction, humans and human behaviour should be at the centre of design. This is the point David Kelly is making in the video Human Centred Design, and I agree with him. “We are now focused more and more on human centred design... and that really involves designing behaviours and personalities into products.”

I think that the example he gave of the technologies and products designed for the Prada store in New York. All of these products are focused around the customer and how shopping in the Prada store can be as enjoyable and easy as possible for them. The RF tags allow the customer to view items they are interested in on one of many screen throughout the store. They can see these items in different colours and sizes, and watch them being modelled on the runway.

The technology involved in the dressing rooms in the store also caters very well to the needs of the customer. Firstly the walls and door of the dressing rooms are made from liquid crystal glass. This allows it to be transparent when showing people the clothes you are trying on without having to walk out, and then when getting changed the wall becomes opaque like frosted glass. There are also more screens in the dressing rooms so you can find out more about the clothes you are trying on. The “magic mirror” also allows you to see what you look like in the clothes from any angle.

ApproTec, started by Dr Martin Fisher, takes products to Kenya to be manufactured there, creating 19 thousand companies (this was in 2001). They produce not only jobs in the manufacturing process, but also the produces manual deep well water pumps which allows people to set up their own small farms. This kind of design is human centred because it is designing not for profit, but to allow farmers in Kenya to make a living, benefiting the greater good of the human race.

I think that watching this video has given me a greater understanding of the direction that design is going. After watching this I am also pleased that this is what’s happening in design because I want to design things centred around humanity and human behaviour, hopefully in a beneficial way.