Make your mark. This is the brief for the second year Maker course. The current product design brief? Redesign the outer casing for a glue gun. I feel as though there is a slight difference between the two. One is about finding who you are, discovering where your passions lie and then making that presence felt through a body of work. The other is remodelling the outside of a glue gun. The product brief states that ‘The majority of professional design work in industry focuses on refreshing existing products in order to maintain sales…[whilst]… retaining the existing functional technology inside the product.’ I feel here is the rub; the raison d’etre behind the current stagnation within product design: it refreshes old designs. Nothing is new. It may look ‘new’, but it is the same thing with a refreshed outer.
It’s no wonder people feel as though product design is in a creative rut – that the draw is within Maker, Ceramics and the Arts for something fascinating: there is no ability to explore. Product design is looking inward for inspiration, to past products, new materials, ergonomics, gaps in the market. Creativity isn’t in the gap in the market, it’s in the arts. Artists look everywhere and anywhere, product design is looking at products, that have been previously been designed. Is this why design is in a state of perpetual repetition? Running laps around the same track? Sure the track may be resurfaced from time to time, but it’s the same foundations, the same track below, just with a new skin. The new casing for a new glue gun.
The doors need to be opened, let the light in, let the world in; allow inspiration to come from other areas, be free to explore and challenge convention. Maybe the best design was an old design that has been superseded by a new, more efficient model? Take the humble label maker, as an example. The old model took a plastic tape and stamped letters into it. Job done. The new model prints out a sticky label. Job done…but this is the wasted components:
Is this really progress? Why did we invent this as a better model when it produces all this waste? In fact, why did we create a label maker in the first place? What was wrong with a permanent marker? The label maker lets me make predetermined marks, the pen lets me make any mark. My mark.
So where do we go from here? What are my ramblings telling me? That if I am to make a real difference within design, I need to become an artist, who designs. We’re in a school of Art and Design, not Art or Design.
So this is where I currently stand: on the edge of a precipice, presented with two options. I can walk across the safe, tried and tested, ergonomically researched suspension bridge or I can jump onto a hot air balloon and take a journey into the unknown.
I think I prefer to choose my own, third option:
……and see how high I can soar.
My destiny is in my own hands.
Rightly or wrongly, I’m going to plot my own path. I choose neither the bridge nor the balloon. I don’t know where it will take me, or when I may land, but I’m sure that I’ll see an X that marks my spot somewhere. Until then, I’ll continue to fly.