Sunday, October 3, 2010

Task 6: Design For Life

The Design for Life television series hosted by world-renowned designer Phillip Starke was a series that placed great emphasis on the design process and the expression of individual creativity. Each of the six episodes within the series followed the Journey of 12 competitors from the United Kingdom, each battling to win a six month placement within Phillip Starkes school of design in Paris. Through viewing this series a great detail of insight and understanding can be gained on the different approaches to design, and how different ways of design thinking can be embraced.

According to Starke, good design speaks life. It represents sex, flesh and sweat. Starke is known as the 'bad boy' of design. With a talent for capturing attention, his design philosophy is simply that good design is beautiful, useful and sustainable. With the selection of 12 competitors from hundreds of design entries, through the series Starke is looking to discover the best new talent in the UK. The search for new ideas where the designers go out of their comfort zone to open themselves up and give everything.

The competitors began the competition in Paris where their design decisions would be challenged and critiqued. The highly critical nature of French culture would motivate the competitors to generate 'good design'. With the commencement of the first project, each designer was allocated the same brief; to find two different products within a supermarket that represented two themes: function and ecology; one item being useful and one being useless. Through the undertaking of this project, Starke was given insight into the designers different ways of thinking, so that he could better understand how their creative minds work. This brief encouraged the competitors to look for the stories behind the products. A myriad of product were brought to the table, ranging from a glass mixing bowl, nappies, batteries and a childs water bottle, right through to condoms to name a few. The end of the first episode saw two people eliminated from the competition, where their design ideas were too simple and not developed enough for Starkes expectation.

Product designers effect every day of our lives. Every product is the result of a design decision, and it is these decisions that will affect our lives in the future. For many designers the most exciting parts of design are the beginning and the end. From the generation of all forms of limitless creations, to when the product becomes a realisation of all of the creative efforts and technological restrictions undergone by the designer. Starke is regarded as the most prolific designer of the generation. His democratic products embrace the future through their sustainability. Through this competition, Starke is looking for a creative mind that can embrace his thinking and design approach; a designer that can push ideas to the limit.

After the elimination of two competitors at the end of the first episode, there were only ten competitors left at the commencement of the second assignment. With a brief to create a product that will help humanity and reflect evolution, Starke aimed to seek out the most ambitious thinkers. It was up to the competitors to find out who in humanity they were trying to benefit, and become familiar with their target by understanding how they live: observing human behaviours. With such an open brief, the competitors returned with completely different and creative ideas through their individual interpretation of the brief. Concepts such as fabric lint, floating communities, personalised t-shirts, water meters, a bamboo bin and an interactive tunnel were just some that were presented as ideas to help humanity interact better with their environment. This was a very interesting episode to watch as the competitors wasted so much of their time tossing around ideas, that it restricted the quality of their final presentation. This resulted in two competitors being sent home, as their ideas failed in the exploration of the brief in a creative and extensive manner.

The expression of creativity and ideas rely on self belief and confidence. Some believe that it is ninety percent perspiration and ten percent inspiration. With the incorporation of performance in a design presentation, the pitch of an idea can be greatly influential on the audience. When designing for a target market, you should design through experience. Where the designer can immense themselves in the world they are designing for, to understand the lives of others. To think, feel and experience.

Within the third episode, the competitors failed to impress Starke in their response to an open brief. The brief stated five simple guidelines; the product designed must be ethical, democratic, ecological, non-electronic and be a product of daily use. For Starke, the goal in design is always invention. Although each of the designers came up with a design invention, their lack of research and knowledge in the area they chose to focus on let them down. Starke decided not to eliminate any competitors, but rather have them each re-do their designs and produce a model; as individual competitors. Teamwork in a competitive environment in this case meant that the dreamers were restricted, and the level of work was levelled; not one competitor stood out from the others at this stage.

With the revision of their designs in the fourth episode, the eight competitors returned to Starke with their ideas. Only four people made it through to the next episode, with designs of a childrens posture chair, anti-mugging glove, magnetic dinner set and an aged walking frame. I found this an interesting episode as the designers became very stressed with the pressure of the competition, hindering the quality of the designs that they were producing. Even after a warning from Starke about their lack of performance and laziness, some of the competitors returned with models that reflected no effort or attention to detail whatsoever. Not surprisingly, these were the four people that were eliminated from the competition.

Through his design career, Starke moved onto form not function. From huge scale interiors to things within the home; democratic design and affordable products. A successful product designer is one who can generate ideas through experience and observation. Where there is a definite technical understanding. For industrial designers, the craft is working out the engineering. With Starkes favourite project always being the next one, his standards are only as high as he sets for himself. As a prolific and influential designer, many of those within the design world find it hard to escape his shadow.

For the four remaining competitors, episode number five saw the opportunity to have their designs produced into prototypes. With the requirement of technical drawings and finalised ideas, Starke was looking for those who had the most successful and feasible designs. Although the posture chair was an extremely clear and researched design, this failed to impress Starke as the internal mechanism of the chair was too complicated; for Starke, less is more. The anti-mugging glove fell to the same consequence, it too failed to impress Starke, mainly due to the lack of research and understanding of the technicality of the product from the designer. Only the Magnetic dining set and aged walking frame made it to the final round, leaving the last two competitors, Mike and Ilsa to battle for the six month placement at Starkes school of design. Within the world of design, ideas are only turned into prototypes if a client believes it has a potential as a solid investment.

With just two remaining competitors in the final episode, the opportunity to win a placement at Starkes design agency would launch the successful designer straight into the heart of the design world. Both Mike and Ilsa made it to the final round as their products were ambitious and inventive. They met the criteria of the brief and appealed to Starke as they were both highly functional. The opportunity to learn about design advertising was experienced by the competitors, and ultimately would have the last point of influence on Starke. With both products being a qualified success, the aged care walking frame won as it was a more ambitious product. It sculptural form appealed greatly to Starke, resulting in Ilsa winning the six month placement in Starkes design agency, where for the next six months, she would have the invaluable opportunity to work alongside one of the worlds most renowned designers.

Design is about making things that can be done, not just about dreams.

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