Few weeks ago I was in Tokyo moving my first steps on tatami and having a look through the latest updates about Japanese design during Tokyo Designers Week. Took me a while trying to summarize my Nip experience and Design, usually a good filter to understand the unknown and a perfect meter to weigh some thoughts, helped me to focus the point. The city is far from any kind of zen, Idyllic traditional Japan collective imaginary. The island has a population of 127 million, packed into about 375,000 square kilometers and, being 3/4 of the land mountainous and sparsely inhabited, population density in Tokyo turns out to be 5,000 per square kilometer! Considering this, is clear to understand why both order and chaos struck me most. Japanese product design is known as pure essence of function and a rigorous example of minimalistic style; contrary graphics are often overwhelming, crowdy and anarchically manga inspired. From young Clockwork Orange style cosplays waiting diligently the metro-train arrival, to little restaurant where squeezed customers endorse the efficiency of the system; all of that suggest me a main double code to read the society and its objects/signs, a sterile, impersonal white cube containing fast running, colorful, noise micro-organisms (and viceversa).
MFA Open House at VCUQatar. First showcase of our student’s works. Empirical vagueness is on the air and the program is taking shape. Is always complex to explain what interdisciplinarity means and, sometimes, few good examples can do better then thousand words.
Finally my Talk is on TED.com. Is still impressive for me that in few hours hundredsof thousands of people are watching it and how this little critical design provocation is rising up such a colorful debate. Design to debate and not to use….sounds familiar. The “Global village” is joining me and a part comments like “who’s this fucking hipster on the stage?” or “He looks like he just took a break from cleaning out his garage to drop by TED”, I’ve been proudly elected as one of the 7 best mustaches on TED…ever!
By the way the covers are downloadable for free on Thingiverse. Here the link
DIY or Open Design, Makers or Product designers, Digital or Analogical, Openness or Closure… these some of the unresolved questions raised up during the New York City 2012 World Maker Fair. The creative and enthusiastic makers tribe has been able to hide in some way, at least for a couple of days, the debates and the question marks on the present and the future of the movement. Between the Makerbot's attempt to defend their commercial choice and Banzi's proud declaration “don't worry, Arduino is still open-source”, there were, thanks God, a mass of easy going guys able to enjoy the simple emotion of a crazy cupcake car or a mentos+lightcoke fountain show. Being grown in the snobbish Italian design environment and being used to different posh design weeks, fairs, happenings, openings, I honestly took a breath in the NY Hall of Science as in the best of my home country’s little town festival. Families with horde of kids fascinated by 3d printers and LED art, fathers ready to be their sons’ superheros, young Steve Jobs willing to show their garage creations and me, presenting a talk on the topic Open design from Qatar to Cuba, weird enough to be part of the game. Smartness seems to have taken the place of Beauty but unconsciously defining a new aesthetic based on microchips, screws and rough plastics. Bauhaus’s aesthetic of the machine is here clear and strong, but in spite of a pure modernist approach, the bottom up push is what makes the makers the soul of this design wave.
New York, Fri 4.00am. Jet lag is keeping me company in my little Lower East Side room. Yesterday has been an intense design day and, as always happens, I’m struggling with some sort of cheap philosophical thoughts.
Thu 3pm: I was at the Museum Of Modern Art and with great pleasure I’ve got the chance to take a coffee with Paola Antonelli, Architecture and DesignDepartment Senior Curator. Few words about Critical Design and its maturity, Open Design and its early days enthusiasm mixed with drops of skepticism, the role of design and the designers identity. We shared the feeling that we are waiting for something new, or let me say better, for something more.
Thu 4.30pm: I’m seated on a C line Metro Train to Brooklyn where in half an hour I will give a lecture to Industrial design graduate students at Pratt Institute. Main topic of the seminar will be exactly Open Design. My feeling was “what I’m going to tell them, some old stories?”.
Thu 7.00pm: The lecture ended , some interesting questions and a lot of curiosity around the topic. Is always attractive when you perceive to being turning on some little lights and suggest new ways to think about our surroundings and our future.
I’m not sure what’s the point of all the story, can something be old and new at the same time? To how many targets design has to speak? Is there a kind of expiring date on design thoughts? Raymond Loewy’s Most Advanced Yet Acceptable principle could help finding answers. In the panel at the entrance of the Moma’s Design section Paola Antonelli introduce designers as problems makers together with the old problems solver definition. In spite of create new product designers are shaping new questions, adding apparently blurriness and chaos. I see Order and Disorder as part of the same game, in design as in their perfect representation in Alighiero Boetti's art work.
As I promise, here I am to tell you about my Cuban experiment. “…an Italian designer who is working for an US University who is currently living in Qatar want to come to Cuba to do a workshop with our students #@!?…este chico parece un poco raro (..this guy looks pretty weird)”. Only when Sergio and Milvia (ISDI’s Dean and Product Design dept. Chair) told me their thoughts before my arrival I fully realized how contradictory was my starting point. Cuba and United States are not exactly best friends and between Doha and Havana there are at list 2meters of fabric per person difference in their female clothes. So why Cuba?…let me make the point.
Open design is part of the new design wave that set as center of debate the project sharing as key to speed up the innovation process and to enlarge the access to design products through a self-production mode. As part of my research on the topic Cuba is a very interesting place, suffice it to say that the government settled as 2011 strategic goal to migrate all of its computers to open-source software. Moreover the products embargo, which the island is still under, makes for them Open Design not a matter of choice. I’m very interested in understand how different environments can affect the open design birth and growth. Obviously part of my investigation is based in Qatar where a society without economical problem and out of any commercial issue could embrace the open design philosophy exactly as they already did with Al Jazeera (great part of the Arab broadcaster’s footage are available on line for free). At the beginning of September I will be at Pratt Institute to have a little talk with the students over there and I will analyze their point of view too and the fervent NYC environment. Well, Cuba, as told above, represent a very interesting place where creativity and ideas sharing are the focus, not in a way of new trend or as a design self celebration, but as a real and concrete socio-economical need.
The students worked on a new way to design products, no more designing from scratch but using free on-line materials. Nowadays different web sharing platforms allow the users to download every kind of file from images and videos to vectors, from blueprints to 3d files; furthermore every kind of instruction is available to understand how-to-do everything. New products will be born by upgrading, adapting, improving, copying and modifying that material. The last effort of the design process has been to design the instructions and the description of the process and, after joining a creative commons license, be ready to upload files and documentation letting others enjoy our experience, may be coping or improving it.
During the workshop I has been really surprised from the quality of the students and the creativity they were able to express with few resources but high cultural level, methodological preparation and excellently drove by their teachers. Is not a case that one of the first dean of the Istituto Superior de Diseño Industrial was the German Friederich Saalborn, formed in Weimar, who adapted the German school model to the Caribbean one. The project has been various from flip-flops to shoe rack, from analogical app to 3d printed object downgrade. Let’s have a look to some of them:
Original Idea: Michiel Cornelissen, Open designers: Raúl Barea - Leandro Luján - Liset Fajardo, source: Shapeways
"We like this lamp, let’s do it. Some pencils and some connections printed in 3d". "First problem: in Cuba we haven’t 3d printers". "No problem let’s modify the object giving others the opportunity to have it, even without a digital printer!". The student has been able so to design the same connection piece but, in spite of print it, they cut an old metal printing plate and here it is.
Original Idea: Andreas Kowalewski, Open designers: Irislén Rego Cisnero - Elio A. Ramos Castillo, source: Domus Autoprogettazione 2.0
Analyzing the Havana environment a couple of students recognized that everyday every Cuban dedicatedto hisfavorite activity: waiting. Wait to be served, wait for phone, wait the bus, wait the elevator, wait the browser window opening. “A stool could be a good Idea.” A very beautiful and simple adaptation of one of the Autoprogettazione 2.0 Domus’ design contest winners. The students simply added a string and some holes to transform a static stool into a portable one.
Original Idea: Rovio, Open designers: Osmany Rodriguez - Carla Oraa Calzadilla, source: App store
This project is not exactly an open design project (just because hardly Rovio would left their birds fly freely in the open sky!). A romantic representation of Open Design, taking the essence of a product and, changing it and turning up side down everything of it, customize the object depending on local and personal needs and resources.
Thanks to Sergio Peña Martinez , Milvia Perez Perez, Jose Castro and ISDI’s student for welcome me and for their active participation and interest in Open Design.
Yesterday was the last day of TED Global in Edinburgh. Tons of inspirations but, most of all, a great place to connect dots within our own mind and to link them with others hugely dotted ones. From the second day of the conference TED staff started to upload one video per day (not necessary in chronological order), so check TED website to look at the talks.
Last day of talks. I’ll suggest you to watch and deepen 4 of them:
The first one has been about Heritage engineering, an amazing technological research on a mysterious Leonardo’s painting done by Maurizio Seracini.
Becci Manson told us the beautiful story of hundreds of volunteer who restored thousands of photos after the Japanese tsunami restoring as well the feelings of families and helping communities to preserve their memory.
The last two speech are based on collaboration and ideas improvement. One is from Clay Shirky and the other one, totally in line with actual work, is from Kirby Ferguson who boldly affirm that everything is a remix and creativity is part of a series of connections and derivations.
Part of the project from where the Kirby Ferguson’s talk comes from.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.”
The third TED day has started with a brilliant session titled “talk to strangers”. Both Rachel Botsman and Robin Chase pointed out peer to peer social networking and peers incorporate companies. Interesting web platforms has been underlined:from TaskRabbit to Buzzcar, from Fiverrs to Topcode.
Marco Tempest, a techno-magician, entertained us with virtual illusionist, If you don’t know him I suggest you to have a look at his vimeo page.
Opnesses applied to governments and politics, This the topic behind a couple of talks which focus our right for transparency and need of collaboration. Have a look at the talks from Beth Novek and Heather Brook.
Tech peak during the last session of the day: quantum levitation and Femtophotography respectively from Israeli professor Boaz Almoag and Ramesh Raskar MIT professor. MIchael Hansmayer presented some amazing peaces made by the combination of programmed algorithms and architectural elements.
Last suggestion within this full day is the theory from the behavioral economist Keith Chen who explained how decision making is influenced by the language you speak.