Sunday, November 30, 2008

[story 06]

My work and Internet Environment

picture 1. Bdlove lamp by Ross Lovegrove

One grows up, one has a series of influences and those influences affect how a person designs objects. Some of my early work in high school was experimental. I was exploring the style of painting and trying to see what style I would fit in. I guess I have been influenced more by the works of artist than designer at that time. Then, my favorite was Van Gogh. I was attracted by his various and magical color and tried to follow his unique drawing style, which combines thick textured paint, called “Impasto.” Looking not too far in the past, I loved the work of Ross Lovegrove. Ross is an industrial designer and architecture as well. I liked his concept that synthesizes “organic essentialism.” He uses minimum resources but at the same time achieves the maximum civilizing effect. His giant organic speaker, and a modular light which constructs the entire ceiling have a beauty of longevity. I rarely saw products that have this feeling.

From those influences through education and personal experience, my design goal has been summarized to one word "harmony." I think a successful design has a harmony inside. Like a picture of Van Gogh and a chair of Ross Lovegrove, something that conveys a sense of harmony is loved by people for a long time. I feel like I have finished the drawing when a main object and a background are harmonized in color and texture. I think my design process is pretty successful when the material, function, and aesthetic have a balance in it.

After I finished the graduate program, I want to work as a mass product designer. I respect the art and craft piece and the will of authors. However, I am more interested in creating user scenarios and providing thoughtful solutions to companies. Later on, being a product designer leader is my goal. And whatever stage I am standing for, I will keep a sense of harmony in my mind.

And it is glad that I am studying in an international design school now. Most of the design school in Korea, in which I finished my bachelor degree, prioritize efficient computer skill and visualization. In RISD master program, I can advance my ability to think critically and virtually experience the manufacturing process.
For two years in RISD, I am going to experiment and build my own realm. Most of product designers work together, and everyone has their own strong point to make contribution for the team. Currently, my interests is a public system design. I am working for the recycle system of Dunkin Donuts in my studio class. I came up with a reusing coffee cup idea which combines non-monetary cup collecting system.

This project was helpful to understand the overall process of user research and brand strategy. Furthermore, I could observe a system design and a well-structured user scenario can affect user's behavior greatly. I am now planning to study the boundary between a space and a product in my winter session.

Considering my interests these days,
my favorite designer is Kengo Kuma, an artist who recently exhibited a Japanese real estate space. In Milan show, he presented a home system named “Tsunagu” (means "connection" in Japanese) which have inside-outside connections using natural materials. I liked the way he combine Japanese traditional materials and industrial components together, bringing natural elements into the interior space. Everything is harmonized, and balanced.

picture 2. “Tsunagu” house by Kengo Kuma

Today, there are a number of issues that a designer should consider. Many designers are confused about the boundies between art and design, craft and mass production, and style and function. Designers also learn in their academic school that there are many social and environmental problems that should be critically considered. As I mentioned above, I believe a "harmony" is a key. Whether we work as an artist or designer, it is fine if we can create something that can be unified with people and solves problem around us. People will keep treasure our object or system with longevity allured by its harmonization.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

[story 05]

Boundary between art and design

The recent work by the Campana brothers, the "Green Hexagons" painting by Sara Eichner, and the Perennial garden from Ariel Yen-Ju Hsieh leave us to think about the boundary between art and design. Compare to the Bauhaus which defined art and design distinctively, the boundary is vague today. Not only are art and design losing their boundaries, but also are other studies. People who have persisted in one particular area of design are crossing over to other side to investigate better possibilities and innovation. The Campana brothers have combined art and design, Sara Eichner has used architectural pattern in her work, and Arial Yean-Ju has worked between landscape architecture and technology.

Transplastic from campana brothers(2007)
All the pieces including chairs, lamps, illuminated meteors, and islands have been handcrafted with a typical Brazilian fiber,'apui', by Campana brothers. Their works challenge the contrasts of nature and plastic, cold and warm, textures and smooth surface.

Green Hexagons by Sara Eichner at the Sears Peyton Gallery (2008)
The painting is architectually-influenced. Artist Sara Eichner was inspired by the siding that clads houses in her Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood, and fills her canvasses with pattern and structure.

Perennial garden from Ariel yen-ju hsieh
Perennial Garden, is a composition of solar powered LED lighting design which sets as a new typology for modern landscape design. Inspired by Makoto Sei Watanabe’s Fiber Wave, it is a fiber-optic lighting design which re-envisioned ways of how man perceive grassland.

Looking at case studies above that point out the vague boundary between art and design, I started to question what is the similar trait between art and design. This question reminds me one of the exhibitions I took part in before. A chair studio in my college had an exhibition named “public space chair” and 20 students showcased their own chairs using various materials. Some students created more artistic chairs by following the feature of material and their own inspiration while others built more functional chairs based on user research and the idea of functionalism. However, all of the chairs that were showcased in the exhibition, either art pieces or designed products, had a common trait: they were giving meaning to viewers, altering the notion of space.

I believe there are little boundaries between artist, architecture, and designer. Some may use most abstract language and some may use most direct word, but they are all similar in one way: they give meaning to space and object. Sometimes, the meaning they give to space is hard to translate into words, or may not clear to everyone. But as soon as you see the object, walk into the structure, or engage to the system, you get the feeling: everyone shares this feeling. And this feeling is the common area between art and design. Considering my personal experience, I believe artistic practice entails design. I have studied art and sculpture in my high school. Inspired by professional artists teacher in art classes, I experimented with oil and water painting, clay and plaster, and Oriental painting. And after I studied design in college, I realized the previous artistic practice enables better understanding in design class. I could more easily perceive the notion of light and space in interior design class, and match color with a better sense in graphic design class. It was possible for me to utilize artistic practice to the design process.

Today, there are many industries looking for a designer who can combine more than two studies. So, for designers, crossing over to art area, or any other design area, is quite attractive. Designers are able to create synergy as well as innovation. With a passion for public space systems, I want to combine urban architecture and product design in my work. Understanding urban design systems and human behavior is inevitable in the process of designing public space. It will take some time and effort to explore this broad area, but like the Campana brothers' chair and Ariel's Perennial Garden, fusing two strands of design is truly appealing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

[story 04]

- Medical Design Panel in "A Better World by Design"

For decades, in the highly regulated medical device industry, manufacturers have not considered overly what their machines looked like. Engineers who focused on complying FDA regulations and increasing surgical efficacy within a time pressure may perceive design as time and cost consuming task. However, recently some of the medical device companies are re-designing to reflect customers concern, and save manufacturing cost. The benefit of hiring designer is becoming distinctive in medical device industry.

"The benefit of hiring designer is becoming distinctive in medical device industry."

On Friday, in a
"better world by design" conference, I went to the Medical Design Panel. There were five speakers and one moderator leading the panel. The main subject was about why design is important in current medical device industry and in what way designer is able to contribute. I want to share one interesting example that Trey Criso, a professor of Brown medical school, presented during the panel. The project is called Toys and Technology for Rehabilitation, and the goal was to create toys that can help children improve their arm and hand functions and help doctors measure the impact of therapy. Doctor Trey said that designers were able to make a great contribution to projects like this.

And from internet news I found an interesting information. In fall of 2006, Brown university and RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) students took on the task of designing therapeutic toys. Doctor Trey was leading this class, a left-brain right-brain collaborating team, that developed more than dozens toys and remote controllers. He said it was interesting to look at how RISD and Brown student think differently and share their ideas. Later, the team got a grant from the R.I. Science council.

Doctor Trey and other speakers in the panel mentioned that medical device industry should include designers and work together. It was impressive to look at various projects done by collaborating team, including a designer, an engineer, and scientist. During the process of designing a medical device, designer is more than a tool maker: designer can create better environment by finding solutions for the problem, looking closely what patients or doctors really want.

Probably, some RISD students will work for medical device industry after they finish the program, and I am glad to say there are a lot of opportunities in here. More intuitive graphics, better user interface design, ergonomic shapes, and user-centric materials are prioritized by companies: these are the factors us designers can work for. However, to make better contributions, we should first learn and understand the language and they (doctors, nurse, and patients) use and study product regulations. During the panel, everyone could see complying regulations and conducting trials were still number one concern for manufactures.

Most of the people in the conference were interested in Green design or social entrepreneurship, however I believe medical device industry is also another area that designer should look on, and be able to contribute. It was a productive conference that showcased current design trends, and designers' passion in contemporary world.

Medical device regulations information
More information about RISD, Brown class project

Sunday, November 9, 2008

[story 03]

Socially and Environmentally Responsible Design
This weekend I attended an amazing conference addressing socially and environmentally responsible design. The name of the conference was "a better world by design" and Erik Hersman was one of the brilliant speakers. Erik Hersma is the founder of AfriGadget, a multi author website that showcases stories of Africans solving everyday problem. Here is part of the lecture he delivered in the first day of conference:

Erik Hersma is providing a comprehensive advice about social entrepreneurship to the audience.
“What do you see?”
By showing pictures from Africa, Eric asks audiences.
“ It is hard to see, but what do you see in here?”
Soon, some people starts to make responses.
“Keyboard! Stick! Trash”
Audiences have no idea what these pictures mean to African as it is HARD TO SEE the life of those that is totally different from us.

The first picture is an old keyboard used by Africans as a shoeshine holder tool and the second picture is not just a stick: it is a bottle opener. The last picture is a hand washing station. Eric showcases objects that Africans use in their daily lives, and from those objects we are able to see the sense of creativity and opportunity of design. The way they reuse and reinvent the object is amazing. Eric Hersma, in his lecture, provides an advice to the audience to observe the refugees in the third world countries carefully. Furthermore, he redefines the role of designer from a tool-designer to a problem solver.

The conference was about people on earth living with economic crisis, and lacking access to a basic sanitation. Various resources exemplified the jobs that designers, entrepreneurs, and engineers are working for the poor in developing countries. Dozens of industry leaders were delivering speech about their approaches and solutions to an extreme poverty. It was surprising that marketing and distribution are keys to the success of products geared towards the poor in developing nations. Besides, a social entreperneur can greatly contribute to fellow human beings living on the other countries when they observe and understand their lives.

It is important for designer to see, listen, and totally understand these people. Ross Evans, a social entrepreneur, mentioned during conference that "when you go to a new place, and have an open mind, then you see new things. If you’re trying to solve problems within a context you already have, you’re going to have a hard time.” So, designer should open their mind, and suppose they know nothing about the new place when they start research. Then, designer, by immersing himself in their context, feel fun with working. From Chris’s picture of Africa I could see the people having innovative ways of surviving. Probably they have forced to be very creative in using and reusing them. I realized that it is better to embrace users' culture, see what they really need rather than bringing designer’s solution that comes from their own knowledge. Often, looking for a platform that is new and driven by high-tech is not worthy in developing country.

Another thing I learned from the conference is simplicity. A designer should make sure that he or she is working for people who need basic functions, not for people desiring iPhone or Audi. Designer’s role in here is not making a tool that has prettiness, aesthetic attractiveness, but creating a business model that is user-centric, affordable, and simple. One example is a cell phone designed by Nokia and being sold in Kana. This phone is intentionally made without a display and composed of basic parts to decrease manufacturing price and increase affordability.

Lastly, a designer should primarily seek to generate a social value rather than profits. I was surprised that many social entrepreneurs are working based on market place, not based on charity. Either we work with these groups or non-profit organizations, it is important not to forget a moral obligation. Designers can develop products and systems which create transaction and economic activities, but should not put financial structure as their optimal goal.

I believe one of the reasons of current economy crisis comes from the unbalanced development of our planet. It is time to offer products and services we take for granted to the people who really need them by providing proper technologies.

Friday, October 31, 2008

[story 02] Female Product and Origin of Design Identity

Pants are an integral part of my life and millions of women as well. When I have to dress up in a special day, I chose to go for a dress. However, when I attend class, work in a studio, or simply lounge at home, I prefer jeans, soft pants or occasionally woman business suit, which offer more freedom to my activity. It is hard to believe that a century ago women wearing pants were a wrong doing thing. California did not make it legal for women to wear pants to the work place until 1995. Until 1800, when women started to work in industrialized place, pants were prohibited by social norm, and religion was one of the most common reason for a woman never to wear a pair of pants.

Through the history of women pants, we can see the evolution of twentieth century gender roles. Women pants appeared at early nineteenth century when feminist movement, which required the changed from Victorian dresses to a more practical costume, began. However, women pants did not distributed widely to many people until the fashion industry convinced people they are a necessary one.

The next attempt at bringing pants into women fashion world was with 1880’s and 1890’s bicycle outfit. Knee length knickerbockers were worn with a split wide skirt and stockings. However, the world of fashion tagged this outfit as un-ladylike and it did not become popular.

Then, World War 1 came, which demand women to work in factories instead of men. Loose pants and pants similar to riding pants became part of the work attire. When World War II began, overalls were so popular that they were worn by many actresses and printed on posters all over the country.
Today, pants are worn far more often than skirts by women.

A model wearing Capri pants, 1950s.

Women pant was a symbol of women liberation from traditional roles and symbol of working modern woman as well. It gave freedom to women in work place and changed the people’s thought based on gender role.

However, looking through the history of pants, we realize the idea of product comes from the structures of belief embedded in the society first, then from the user’s need. If WW1 never happened, or if the fashion industry never approved pants as a women item, probably we were not able to wear pants today, even we know they are so much comfortable.

Now, we can ask a question considering the realm of design. Does the product identity first comes from the belief fixed in the structure of social view, not from the need of user such as product like women pants? I will say NO. Today, people are more likely to express their individual preference, rather than just following the social trend. So, we see many products came from ideas based on the user research first, and furthermore benefit people behavior, and social view.

So, what is the designer’s role? I believe it is designer’s role to design object based on the understanding of user need first, and incorporate things that can change our society to a better state.

Here is another example of female product.

Most of us know someone who has suffered from breast cancer, and may have unfortunately had to have a mastectomy because of that. When women lose a part of their body that has always made them feel beautiful, they tend to lose a certain sense of confidence and femininity.

Lumitact, the product name, is an adhesive, tactile breast prosthesis that integrates Phillips’ Lumalive material into its design. Instead of feeling embarrassed by the un-natural feel of a breast prosthesis, Lumitact can make a woman feel self-confident, sexy and feminine once again.

Like this example, designer can find their identity by offering better experience and life to people. And through this process, product can get its meaning as well.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

[story 01] Internet taking control of our lives

Chinese online addition video :

It has been three years since I joined a social networking website named "Cyworld". Like Myspace in US, I usually go to see my website every day, and check for new messages from my friends or update by posting images to show my daily life. I have considered this media as a good tool to connect people and keep in touch with them. After I moved to the US, I signed up in Facebook and Skype to get further advantages from these social network services. However, it was only a week ago that I realized this new technology could be the most assaulting one. Last weekend, I turned on Skype to talk with my parents and suddenly; one user attacked me with sexual harassment. I turned off the computer right after seeing his offensive word, but this experience has driven me to think more about the bad implications of the Internet such as addiction to it or Cyber bullying.

This is an image of a cyber funeral from the video dealing about "Chinese online addiction." Recently, online friends organized a cyber funeral for a girl who suddenly died after spending consecutive days on playing games without eating and sleeping. As seen in the picture, during the funeral, friends equipped as soldiers are bowing to the dead girl in a virtual battle. These online friends don't seem to be agitated in regard to her death. During the interview with a policeman, they said she was a kind and polite player. From this unbelievable incident, we realize how one single online game can cause a serious problem that can change the culture of the young generation.

In Chinese modern cities, online games are not just a tool for entertaining; they form networks, small societies, and virtual homes for anyone who wants to run away from their reality. Besides, people find themselves becoming more and more obsessed and violent when they play online games, lacking social ability in real life. According to the Li Jianduo, a vice chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, ten percent of China's 40 million teenage Internet users are addicted to online games. This addiction can lead them to suffer from depression, academic and social problems and even illnesses.

Not only does this occur in China but many countries are also dealing with serious problem caused by Internet attack. For instance, South Korea is having a dangerous Internet bullying problem in its hands. A few weeks ago one actor killed himself in response to some homophobic online attacks. Recently, another Korean actress named Choi Jin Sil, committed suicide after a series of vicious Internet attacks incorporating abusive comments and rumors. US also has a problem with social networking websites. The girl by the name of Megan Meier killed herself after being a target in a Myspace hoax. All over the world, cyber bullying is dominating the lives of those who are not equipped against the exploitation of this new media. And the problem can be wider and deeper as it becomes a mainstream of everyday lives. With the widespread use of the blogs, emails and mobile phones with text messaging, video capability, cyber bullying can be carried on 24hours, reaching the victim at any time and in any place.

Some people may think the Internet has no problem in itself; it is a problem of the people. A popular saying goes "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." But in the actual world, the role of the Internet in changing people's reaction to a gray area of causality is so much sure. Perhaps then, the internet can still be partly blamed.

First, it further became a means of bullying and addiction. Bullying in past has involved personal actions such as hitting, punching, teasing or intimidating Now, they can be easily expressed through internet with anonymity. Similarly, addiction has to do with cigarettes, alcohol and gambling, but are now evolving into online gaming. The Internet is to be blamed, as they are not just a new means to express anger, it is causing problems more vicious and more addictive than ever. Secondly, it changes the way people build relationships. Probably ten years ago, before modern technology such as mobile phones and email was so ubiquitous and entrenched, the way people build their relationships and express ideas were different. Most of them have few but intimate friends. They spend most of their time talking and hanging with their family, sibling/s, or coworkers. Personal interaction was the main tool for communication, which requires courtesy and respect to each other. Today, however, Internet users are building broad, but casual relationships through social websites. Rather than using their free time going to a movie or spending it with their families, they just surf the web instead. Some people even have a compulsive and out-of-control manner when they use computer interacting with no respect- hurting and insulting using anonymity.

So what do we have to do to prevent future attacks and addiction to the Internet that seems to be taking control of our lives? As Internet problems such as cyber bullying has just increased in recent years, there seems to be no perfect or effective solutions yet.

Although some governments are trying to pass laws that may introduce ethics to the cyber world; these are still under scrutiny. For instance, the Korean government is looking for a new law that will force people to reveal their name and ID numbers before they share their opinions, but many experts say it does not figure out the problem.

Thus for now, we, as individuals, should find our own solutions.
We have to learn to make a balance between the new cyber world and the real world by critically judging the resources in the Internet. We should be able to make a dividing line in between these two realities and know which is which. For example, we should realize that an online game is simply a game that ends once the computer is turned off. It may take a level of violence to complete a level in an online game but it surely won't get you anywhere in the real world except in jail.

Criticisms, whether good or bad are also best expressed personally. This way, resolutions can easily be made after. Issues are only left hanging when people simply attack at each other from one end to another. More so, doing this anonymously online is only a manifestation of cowardice. The internet is to be used as a tool to get in touch with people, keeping relationships intact as much as possible and never the other way around.

Basically, these solutions are only possible if we use the internet with responsibility. Like all other technologies available today, the internet can either be used for the good or the bad. Ultimately, the question fires back at us, "What do we want to make of it?"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

[04] Chair and Functionalism

During the studio class, I was making a small concept cup model which had to show the image of "hot" by itself. At first, I put all the components that symbolize hot; hot coil, fire, and so on. And then I started to think about function. The handle had to be longer to protect the user's hand. The material of a cup should have prevent the heat passing the cup. After all, this hot cup was basically having a form that follows the "function."

I am using this principle "form follows function" in every design process, and pretty sure that I will keep using this one. It is a simple but clever principle for an industrial designer. However, will it bring a success to the product all the time? Today, as an industrial market is becoming more competitive, there are more expectations to products. It should be functional and simple with little ornament, however, should have more emotional, cultural components to appeal people. In sum, with a prospective of industrial designer, I think a successful product should consider both the spirit of Bauhaus and the sense of emotion.

Artist and social reformer William Morris believed that simplicity and fine craftsmanship were not possible in furniture made by machine. Their belief that good design should be essentially simple and available to all, regardless of social standing, became an important modern principle.

Designer: Leonard F.Wyburd,
Style:Arts and Crafts Movement,

Leonard F. Wyburd was the head of the Furnishings and Decoration Department at Liberty & Company, with shops throughout England. It exported furnishings, fabrics, and accessories created by Arts & Crafts designers. The Thebes stool is made of walnut, mahogany, or oak, with a concaving leather seat.

Morris's desire for well-crafted simplicity as well as interest in the medieval past had enormous influence. American Architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, George Washington Masher, and George Grant Elmslie, created furnishing that are considered as the first original designs America produced.

Designer: Frank Lloyd Wright,
Country: United States

In 1904, Wright introduced advanced office chair constructed of metal with oak seats for the Larkin Company administration building in Buffalo. Although in sympathy with William Morris's ideas about simplicity and fine craftmanship, Wright believed the use of machine was vital for executing the pieces.

Earlier in 1892 in Munich, in 1898 in Vienna, protesting groups of young designers and artists, including Josef Hoffmann and Otto Wagner were together referred to as the Secession. They worked first in Jugenstil, and later their style evolved in a more geometric and structural direction.

Style:Vienna secession,

An early modern work of extreme simplicity often attributed to Josef Hoffmann. Intended to be part of a totally washable world, the wooden frames of the chair and the table that complements or have a white high-gloss finish.

In Holland, a radical art and design organization, named De Stijl, was founded by Theo van Doesburg. The group focused on spatial problems, adopting the Japanese quality of sophistication, using straight lines and right angle and smooth, shiny surfaces. Their goal was to achieve harmony and balance in the home by limiting themselves to simple element.

Designer: Gerrit Rietveld,
Style: De Stijl,
Country:The Netherlands.

The simply constructed deal wood Berlin Chair, lacquered white, light and dark gray, and black, was created for the Berlin Exhibition. It was one of the world's first asymmetrical seating units.

Like William Morris, Bauhaus designers believed that their mission lay in improving society by making the environment harmonious and well-crafted. However, Bauhaus designers had nothing against the machine. They bring industry together with art in order to create prototype for mass production, and they saw the need to develop new techniques and materials to make this possible. Bauhaus adopted the principle "form follows function " because it's concern for simplicity,comfort and edification.
Designer: Marcel Breuer,
Style: Bauhaus,

Known popularly as the Breuner chair, Cesca was originally made from a single length of steel tubing with a seat made of ebony-stained bentwood and caning, but now many variations are available. The wood can be dark or natural finish oak or beech: the armchair can have wood or upholstered armrest.