Thursday, 16 September 2010

Day 259, on which John tries to get a move on with Rams' principles of design [16.9.10]

Dag to hundrede nioghalvtreds. Yurgh, I've had a building headache today. It started at about 11, and has been growing more and more annoying since. I shouldn't really blah on about my headaches on this blog, but there's a still chance it'll turn into something else and I'll be proud of myself for documenting it from the very start. Heh. OK, let's try and make more progress with Dieter Rams' ten principles of 'good design'...

8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.

This is an interesting point, but one that shouldn't really be included. Design, by its very definition, is well-detailed. Even if you think you're creating a simple shape, you've still got to think about the details, the edges, the materials, the joining techniques... there's a lot more than just a cool shape. One thing that separates good designers from great designers is an ability to see your design on several different scales.

Firstly, on a human scale. What users will see it as. Secondly, on a smaller scale - all the little details like screws and fixings that you'd only notice if you look close up at the chair. Which users will do, if they're interacting with the chair enough. Then they'll appreciate your attention to detail. There is a third scale, which is from far off - what does the design look like from afar? Does it maintain its style? Does it lose its shape due to stupid frills? (*cough* crappy Spanish/Italian design *cough*) That's another thing to think about. Enough for yah?


I'm in a Panton mood, so here's a Verner Panton chair, The Amoeba, to look pretty on this blog. You can see that from a human scale, it's slick, smooth and natural. Classic hippy 60s stuff. Classic Panton. However, if you look closer, you can see a functional seam where the seat meets the backrest. You can see the division between the two parts running down the side of the chair. You can see the backrest curves inwards slightly. These details are really appreciated if, as here, they're done well. Then, from the afar-scale, the chair is so bold and natural it'll stand out and maintain its appearance. I prefer it in purple, though. More amoeba-like.

9. Good design is environmentally friendly.

Oh God no. Please, Dieter, why did you have to include this in your ten principles? WHY!?!

Aw crap, I guess I'd better talk about this now. This one is one of the few principles of the ten that I don't agree with. Everyone loves a challenge, especially designers, but functional challenges.  The challenge of being environmentally friendly seems like something which only acts to hinder your creativity, and prevents risks from being taken. If we didn't have to care about making the atmosphere poorly, who knows what we'd have created in the past ten years!

And whilst I do appreciate that eco-friendly design can create great stuff, I still wish we had the design community of the 1950s. Jacobsen, Eames, Panton, Le Corbusier, Van der Rohe, Saarinen, Aarnio... all designers who had barely heard of climate change, and all creating beautiful designs. Perhaps I've just got an affection for mid-century modernism? Probably. But I still believe that eco-friendliness is one of the silliest, and most unnecessary (well kinda) challenges we have to cope with.

Additionally, eco-friendly designs seem to be those which are what I'd call 'design'. IE, they're made to fit a problem, and not simply as art like those 50s designs. Eco-friendliness is what's killing 21st century design. No wonder we haven't had any real design classics in the past few years (Starck's Juicy Salif is the only one I can think of, and that's not eco-friendly). Being environmentally friendly has become a starting point for designs, when - if anything - it should simply be a small consideration further down the design process. Please, guys, can we ignore the environment for once?

~John

ps. I do care about the environment, I guess. I just wish it didn't have to be so prominent in 21st century design.

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