Companies can find that although they invest into design development, the results they get back don’t capture the hearts and minds of contemporary consumers. What can be done?
While the digital is explained in itself by computer science, important questions for the humanities – such as how the Digital affects human behaviour, or how it impacts society and economy – are outside its scope. Different disciplines have provided answers, but there has been no integrated concept bridging these insights.
What is the future of retail? High street shopping has lost much of the luster it had until the nineteen-seventies. It was the Grands Magazins at the turn of the twentieth century – Bon Marché, Samaritaine, Printemps – who made shopping a destination and a pastime. In the eighties, when branded stores started to take over, the high streets in Manchester and Birmingham, Vienna and Brussels started to look increasingly identical.
Plato: Jim, do you think the end of the world will come at nighttime? Jim: Mm, no. At dawn.
James Dean and Sal Mineo in “Rebels Without A Cause”, 1955
It is a chilly late morning this spring in Berlin. Fitting to the temperature, a skier runs skis made from cardboard in a circular groove on a metal plate, around and around. Running in circles. The exhibit, called “Your personal career” is telling for a view of design as it was on display at the Designmai 2006 design show in Berlin.
Most exhibits are made in cardboard or plywood, taped or tacked, early process mock-ups rather than fully developed models. That reflects on the city, fragmented and patched as Berlin has been through history, it reflects on design as a process, on the budget of the exhibitors, and it reflects on a particular situation of contemporary design.
What if your sketches would evolve and start their own life with algorithms inspired by biology?
Big Data. Most people have not seen it – Big Data are not public. But each of us is permanently producing it.
Korean cosmetics brand Whoo (后), conceived and designed by Mario Gagliardi and his team at LG Household and Health Care, has surpassed all competitors including Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Rolex for overseas luxury duty-free sales in Korea. It is the first time a Korean brand has become the bestselling luxury brand.
Chinese visitors to South Korea are buying less from global luxury mainstays like Louis Vuitton and Chanel in favour of cheaper home-grown brands, as young, independent travellers make up a bigger share of tourists. Lured by the “Korean Wave” of culture exports, from soap operas and K-pop music to food and fashion, price-conscious younger Chinese visitors are seeking a more authentic and less expensive shopping experience.
Form follows function: The most famous slogan in design. First formulated by Louis Sullivan in the late 19th century, it became a basic principle for rationalist design in the sixties of the last century. With machine learning, ‘form follows function’ turns to ‘form learns function’.
The management of brands is often biased by the way managers conceptualize and understand brands. We have identified four commonly employed metaphors of brands which, all in their own way, produce unwanted effects on the management and utilization of brands.
Company structures changed dramatically over the course of the last century. The structures and processes behind the production of goods evolved, and with these also the relationships of products and their users.
In the craft guilds, the skilled human was the originator of the product, and the focus was on skilled execution, made-to measure for the customer. The powerful guilds owned the monopoly on produced goods, heavily opposed the adoption of the newly available production machines and finally lost their power to mass-production.
In the mass production plants of the early 20th century, the machine – and the mechanically acting, unskilled worker – was the originator of the product. The customer focus of the craft guilds disappeared, and Henry Ford famously said that people can have any car they want as long as it is a black model T. Ford profited from a radical innovation, the assembly line, to create economies of scale.
But already 1927 Alfred P Sloane of GM introduced a different viewpoint and introduced the “Art and Color Section”, a predecessor of the modern design department. Production was still monolithic, but parallel, customers had a choice, and design was used to differentiate.
“It is right that we should stand by and act on our principles; but not right to hold them in obstinate blindness, or retain them when proved to be erroneous.” MICHAEL FARADAY
The 15 Things Charles and Ray Eames Teach Us *
1. Keep good company
2. Notice the ordinary
3. Preserve the ephemeral
4. Design not for the elite but for the masses
5. Explain it to a child
6. Get lost in the content
7. Get to the heart of the matter
8. Never tolerate “O.K. anything.”
9. Remember your responsibility as a storyteller
10. Zoom out
12. Prototype it
14. Make design your life… and life, your design.
15. Leave something behind.
(* From: An essay by Keith Yamashita)
The Hannover Design Principles by William McDonough and Michael Braungart:
Insist on rights of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.
Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations to recognizing even distant effects.
Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement including community, dwelling, industry and trade in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist.
Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless creation of products, processes or standards.
Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.
Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate this energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.
Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not as an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and re-establish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.
The Principles of Design by Dieter Rams:
Good Design Is Innovative : The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
Good Design Makes a Product Useful : A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
Good Design Is Aesthetic : The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
Good Design Makes A Product Understandable : It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
Good Design Is Unobtrusive : Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
Good Design Is Honest : It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept
Good Design Is Long-lasting : It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail : Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly : Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible : Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.
The Principles of Design by Don Norman* :
Visibility – The more visible functions are, the more likely users will be able to know what to do next. Incontrast, when functions are “out of sight,” it makes them more difficult to find and know how to use.
Feedback – Feedback is about sending back information about what action has been done and what has been accomplished, allowing the person to continue with the activity. Various kinds of feedback are available for interaction design-audio, tactile, verbal, and combinations of these.
Constraints – The design concept of constraining refers to determining ways of restricting the kind of user interaction that can take place at a given moment. There are various ways this can be achieved.
Mapping – This refers to the relationship between controls and their effects in the world. Nearly all artifacts need some kind of mapping between controls and effects, whether it is a flashlight, car, power plant, or cockpit. An example of a good mapping between control and effect is the up and down arrows used to represent the up and down movement of the cursor, respectively, on a computer keyboard.
Consistency – This refers to designing interfaces to have similar operations and use similar elements for achieving similar tasks. In particular, a consistent interface is one that follows rules, such as using the same operation to select all objects. For example, a consistent operation is using the same input action to highlight any graphical object at the interface, such as always clicking the left mouse button. Inconsistent interfaces, on the other hand, allow exceptions to a rule.
Affordance – is a term used to refer to an attribute of an object that allows people to know how to use it. For example, a mouse button invites pushing (in so doing acting clicking) by the way it is physically constrained in its plastic shell. At a very simple level, to afford means “to give a clue”. When the affordances of a physical object are perceptually obvious it is easy to know how to interact with it.
(* Preece, J., Rogers, Y., Sharp, H. (2002), Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, New York: Wiley)
Through our community-curated platform for visual culture, we started observing a range of trends about thirty months ago. penccil is especially suited to an investigation into the creative industries as it is a global, user-curated platform, reflecting trends in design, architecture and the arts in realtime. Within these thirty months, we have have seen several dominant trends declining and new trends emerging.
Despite the global economic slowdown, design and art are as dynamic forms of expression as ever. The global slowdown did not impede the emergence of new design trends; just the opposite, we see a great variety of new approaches emerging.
However, the global slowdown is having an effect on the relationship between companies and designers. There is less interaction between corporations and designers, and more independent design production. The reason: Many corporate design departments, previously the vanguard of advanced design output, have been hit by slowing growth.
Products which created new growth markets by answering unmet needs – Sony’s Walkman in the eighties, Apple’s iPhone in the 2000’s – have reached ‘dominant design’ status where each new model sees only minor alterations. The smartphone market is a case in point. Previously a growth engine for companies such as HTC and Samsung, it is now a contested market where products have reached such a level of sameness that just a low price point can change the entire market – China’s Xiaomi is the premier example.
As a result, corporate design departments are innovating less, and hence exert less influence on the development of the design profession as a whole. Therefore we see more and more designers working outside of the corporate system, and more and more design products manufactured by designers themselves within new models of cooperation, production and sales.
There is also another change happening: The old systems of bringing creative production to the public are changing, giving way to new, more dynamic models.
It was once the role of curators and art editors to “sieve” through the work of designers and artists and to select the ones they found worthy of presenting. Creative practitioners which did not get “picked up” remained unknown. This system was dominated by a few gatekeepers whose likes and dislikes could make and break a creative career. To give just one example: Jean-Michel Basquiat, now considered a prime figure of American modern art, was notoriously ignored by the curators of his time.
penccil removes the barrier of entry for creative practitioners and curators alike. Taking the the individually curated blog a step further, in penccil everyone becomes a curator. We see creative practitioners, gallery owners, collectors and curators showcasing acutely relevant work.
The web disintermediates the gatekeeping systems behind the creative industries. The traditional roles of museums, publishers and curators are changing. Curators are not gatekeepers any more. They become mediators in between creative production, physical or virtual exhibition spaces, and new audiences. The increase in temporary, nearly improvised events – design days, art fairs, maker gatherings – confirms this trend.
“Making it” in the design and art worlds is now much less depending on traditional gatekeeping systems. We see many young designers who consider a presence on online platforms more important than other forms of presence, such as in galleries and museums.
The web has changed the creator-curator relationship also on the curating side: We see curators and editors turning to web platforms to find new talent.
Traditional systems of bringing creative output to markets and audiences are being reshuffled. By way of introducing more variety, reducing barriers to entry and enabling new forms of getting known, the web has added new dynamics to the creative industries despite the global economic slowdown.
In governments, funding for creative practitioners often depends on assessments of the quality of their work, bound to old systems depending on curator-gatekeepers and exposure in museums. As these models are becoming increasingly outmoded, funding mechanisms will need to change to reflect the actual value of creative work in the light of the new dynamics of creative careers.
For companies, understanding and implementing the look and feel of the times has become a vital skill. Today, ceative practitioners are creating the trends which are the lifeblood for companies tomorrow. However, corporate design or marketing departments and the creative industries and its dynamics are increasingly disconnected, making it harder for companies to understand what is happening “out there”.
It is reassuring that the creative industries are getting more dynamic, even in times of economic slowdown. Now companies and governments need to understand and act upon these new dynamics.