Sunday, November 30, 2008

closing statements.

I am a storyteller. I am a creator. I am a designer.

One of the most consistent themes that run throughout my writing is that humans are meant to relate to each other in a realm of story. Furthermore, Story itself is a powerful entity that permeates every facet of life in this world, including design. In my investigation into cinema I skimmed the surface of the cultural importance of storytelling, as it relates to the history of a certain product, the movie projector. We have developed new and more complex ways to tell stories. They are often times the same stories, told in a new way, or shown through a different medium. As far as the projector goes, it is one small piece in the timeline of how stories have been visually told using light. Campfires, signal lights, candles, shadow plays, photography, film, etc. Story at its basest form has prompted the design and development of products intended to be used exclusively for the purpose of storytelling. I think that’s cool. That said, it’s something that I think is often overlooked, considering that Story is at the heart of every human being…

In my mid-semester essay, I went on to assert that humans are relational creatures. To go even farther still, I would say that I believe Story is one of the largest factors in making humans so relational. It is “the hook” that prompts us to investigate. Investigate ourselves, each other, the world around us, everything. I also made a point of saying that storytelling is uniquely human. I truly believe in that. There so many things that are unique h to humans in this world, including creation and design. The act of designing something through a process, for a process, for a function, to function, and then creating it—is human at its best. This is how humans live—not survive, but truly live. Storytelling and creation make us what we are.

I have also been interested in how humans relate to products and garments, and what that translates to in our relation to each other. Physical interaction, direct contact, seamless interface—these are all things that excite me in the realm of design and creation. These things taken into account with storytelling make for an incredible synthesis of physical need, emotional desire, and primal history and experience. Design is truly sensual.

My own path lies before me. I am not sure as to where it will ultimately take me, though I know the direction. It is my desire to tell stories through design. I want to create for the film industry. Cinema is the premium mode for telling stories in this day and age, and I need to be a part of it. That said, I also hope to create in ways that are not limited to a specific medium. My dream would be that all of the Story that permeates my creations would penetrate into other areas of human life in this age and would last far beyond the mode of cinema. My dream would be to leave a legacy of Story.

art in design in art.

production design for film.
design for art.
nuff said.

the world. is better.


To copy life. To make life better. To make life possible. To copy life. I like it. is full of some pretty interesting and inspirational discoveries and developments being made in the world biomimicry. Biomimicry itself is especially exciting as it pertains to design. Industrial design, at its basest, is problem solving. Nature is itself a system that works on its own, and compensates and adapts to whatever it must in order to maintain balance. It probably has most of the problems solved…

Cephalopods are my favorite animals, second only to dinosaurs. They’re exciting. Completely made up of muscle and brain and copper-based blood, they are truly alien creatures.

Application of the inherent biotechnology in these creatures could be used for a variety of different things. Their ability to change color seems to be at the forefront of study in application to design. Made possible by elastic pigment sacs, the rapid change in the skin color and texture of cephalopods could be a preview of things to come in the world of products. From flexible solar coating, to biodegradable video screens, to smart textiles and ultimate camouflage, cephalopods could hold the key. And they’re awesome.

The work being done by is noble, exciting, and ultimately cool for so many reasons. First of all, it’s interdisciplinary. Secondly, it’s free and open source. Most of all, it has ultimate potential for kinetic development of knowledge without end. There is so much to be learned from nature that the information gather can only be added to. There will always be more…

Sunday, November 9, 2008

human(itarian) to human.

Humanitarian design in general is based around a really great idea. This idea is most often that of helping those less fortunate than one’s self, most often in a far off country. That said, the execution of humanitarian design is not always so hot. Sometimes, it’s awesome (solar cooker), but a lot of times, it’s not. Why is this?

Is it because of a lack of resources? Maybe. Cultural gap? Probably. Financial difficulty? Almost definitely. But these are things that determined designers surmount all the time. What is it that just makes products for the developing world hard to design?

In writing and in film and other forms of storytelling, the seasoned vets will tell you to “Write what you know.” This validates anything that you’ll have to say to your audience. It keeps you as a kind of authority on whatever subject/message you are communicating. It makes what you say true. I would assert that one of the defining reasons that humanitarian design can suffer is because it is design for a super-specific situation that often times the designer has no experience in whatsoever. Designers often get stuck saying this phrase—“As designers, ____________” “we should…. it’s our job to…” We are humans first. Connection happens on a human level. Not on some hierarchy of products from designer to user. So many products for the developing world are designed in ignorance beyond what words on a paper might say about a culture or climate.

100% of people are human. Believe it, or not. That is something enormous that we all have in common. It’s probably one of the most important things that we have in common. That is the basis for universal design (again, that solar cooker). At an even baser level, it is something that we can all connect on. The stories that Dr. Becker told last week made sense and spoke to us all on a human level. Emotion, pain, smell, taste. And I believed him. Because he was telling us about something that he knew about. He had been there. He had the experience. Validation.

The second story that Dr. Becker told is one that I’m familiar with—the starfish story. It speaks a very simple truth: Help. Whoever you can, whenever you can. It matters. I believe this to be true. There are effective ways to help, and ineffective ways to help. the devotion of one’s life to humanitarian design, while noble, needs to be backed up with experience that in reality, many people don’t have. It’s a hard situation, to want to help and to not know how.

I think that one of the most effective ways to help someone in another country is simply to go. Or at least sponsor someone else who will go. Flawed as NGOs are at times, they help in a very direct way, on a person to person base. Create an interaction on a human level. Help one person. Help as many as you can. Gain experience with one person. A group of people. A country. A Culture. Be a human first. Make what you say true. Then figure out what to do “as a designer.”

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama shirt.

What does an Obama shirt mean? What does an Obama shirt mean right now? What will it mean Wednesday? If he wins? If he loses? What does a McCain shirt mean?

Meaning in products is completely relative. There is no way to design a meaning into a product without working within a certain set of parameters, those parameters being experience. Experience shapes perception. Everyone’s own personal experience and the story of their life determine their own personal worldview. How you see the world translates to people, places, products, etc. It is an interesting thought that a person may not be able to act or react in any way that is different than any that he or she has seen before… We are shaped as we grow.

As for designers, they can get a certain reaction to a product if they play certain cards. Based on their own experiences or perhaps the experiences of others, a designer can manipulate a consumer into believing and perceiving a specific quality “inherent” in a product. Consumer culture is about manipulation, and marketing.

So what does an Obama shirt mean?

The most simple and immediate response would be that whoever is wearing it wants Obama to be the next President of the United States. Simple. Or this person could be latching onto a trend. Being socially accepted in any given setting because of an incredible icon he or she is wearing on his or her chest. Nike. Abercrombie. Billabong. Obama.

McCain shirt, probably the same simple answer. And that’s probably all that’s the same. McCain is probably less likely to be considered iconic in the branding sense, so we’ll stick mostly to Obama…

At this point, wearing an Obama t-shirt is just as much a fashion statement as it is a political one. What then, will happen on Tuesday? What generally happens on St. Patrick’s Day? Everyone will probably be wearing their specific candidate’s shirts if they own any. But what does that mean? Are they saying, “Remember to vote!—for ______!!!” or, “This is who I’m voting for, and I thought you should know that.” or, “When ­­­­­­­­­­­­________ wins, you’ll remember that I was right.”

So what happens Wednesday? If Obama wins, will people wear their shirts that day as well? Perhaps, in celebration. Those shirts will have become an icon of victory, and will be seen by others wearing them as a similar team jersey, uniting them in their choice. Very likely… But what if he loses? Would people still wear their shirts on Wednesday? What would it mean if they did? Would it be in mourning of what they thought could have been? Would people ever wear them again at all? Would they be ashamed to still be linked to the loser of the election? This icon of hope and change would immediately be turned into a unifying mark of loss and sadness for many people. And the designers wouldn’t have written that in at all…

The meaning of the shirt will have changed based on an event. A collective experience that would shape the perception of that icon in the future. Shaped by victory or defeat, an Obama shirt will mean something entirely new soon enough.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Story.Human. Human.Body.


I am excited by stories, movies in particular. They stir something in my heart that makes me want to be a better artist, a better designer, a better storyteller through my own medium. Storytelling is very important to me. It is one of my main interests in industrial design. I believe that it is through stories that we as humans express our greatest desires, our deepest fears, and our most basic needs. It is through stories, and the experiences that shape them, that we form relationships, interactions.

Telling stories is a very uniquely human activity. I believe it is one of our highest and surest forms of communication. It has stood the test of time (caves till now till far long after we are gone) and evolved in its mediums, but never abandoned any of them. People still draw and illustrate to tell a story, they still speak words, plays and theatrical productions are still written and created, movies are still being made, and now even the internet is being used to bring back the cereal.

Some might assert that one of the most important things to include in a story is the hook—the event at the beginning that makes the listener or reader say, “Well, what happens next?” That desire, the desire for knowledge, satisfaction, adventure, myth—it is human. It is uniquely human. Story is at the heart of every man, woman, and child whether they know it or not. Through the recognition of that within ourselves, and the fostering of story around us in the world, I believe that the human experience can be made richer, and that humans themselves can become better…

Humans are relational creatures. It is in our very nature to come together, relate, communicate, love. By sheer logic one can see how everyone is connected in one way shape or form. E.g. one thing I buy affects those who sell it, to those who make it, to those who harvest its materials, to those who grow it, to the earth, etc. Looking at life in the context many small stories that make up one large story creates a connection between everyone and everything in the world. It brings us together.


I am driven by good design. The most innovative design lies in the realm of change. True innovation and creativity bridge the gaps between disciplines and bring design to a place where it can change the course of the future. It is my assertion that story should not and simply cannot be left in books and visual media. I believe that story permeates every aspect of our lives and should be acknowledged, even featured. This especially applies to design.

What if designers thought in the context of the human experience, as it relates to storytelling? What if they considered their hook? One might say that they do already but they just use different language, like, ‘consistent form language’ or ‘wow factor.’ I kind of think these are mere scratches on the surface of what potential story has to change and better the course of design. This is the point at which someone could dismiss me and say that design has its place in storytelling—structure, revision, product. Then I would reply that more importantly, storytelling has its place in design—a hook, cohesion, a climax and resolution. This is where we as designers get to forget about products, and get to remember ourselves as human. We as designers have the power to shape the human experience for ourselves and potentially millions upon millions of people around the world. We must rise to that challenge.

As far as three dimensional work goes, I personally want to design for the body. The human body holds, to the greatest extent, our basis for design. The most useful products are designed for interaction with it. Direct interaction demands good design. Good design requires cohesion and subtlety. This means a seamless interface between the human body and the environment surrounding it. Take clothing, for example. There is not much that gets closer to our bodies than clothing. It is often times through our clothing that we experience the world around us, whether we are shielding ourselves from it, exposing ourselves to it, or making ourselves more a part of it. Well designed clothing is functional, durable, visually and tactilely appealing, and stands the test of time.

My question is this: What separates a well designed consumer product or garment from a well told story? Most would say end purpose and product. Sure, all go through a similar process to form the product, but all are different in the end, right? I don’t believe that for a minute. I would assert that a well designed product, as a well designed garment, as a well told story should all serve to better the human experience here on earth—that is their purpose. It is our job as designers to make that our goal, our premise. Design not simply for humans, but for the human experience, and in doing so, create a better humanity.

Sunday, October 19, 2008