Monday, December 8, 2008

Design in Context, Part A


Design in a way is an act of balance. Designers have to maintain a “balance between the permanent and the ephemeral, between nature and the consumer dominated culture” that we live in today(Raizman 363). This whole seesaw of balance believe it or not relies on us as designers to keep in check. One major thing that is throwing it off kilter is the over consumption of our society.
Our society has thrived on consumption throughout the past fifty years. We are a use and throw away society. It is mainly seen and studied in environmental awareness and the heath food industry. This is even seen through furniture sales. IKEA for example has had huge international success with its modern furniture designs. With consumption comes obsolescence, and with obsolescence also comes consumerism. In fact, “obsolescence remains the cornerstone of consumer-led design, involving the stimulation of desire through novelty on one hand and the effective management of production costs on the other”(Raizman 366).
Another driving force behind modern design is the means of miniaturizing technology. This is seen in all sorts of ways like cell phones and laptops. This can be a challenging aspect of design because so many constraints are placed on the designer which leads to a certain amount of conformity when it comes to miniaturization in electronic products(Raizman 372). In addition to this, graphic design has a huge impact on the modern designs of today. The fact that designs can be “soft” or easily changed in a digital format really makes it easy for designs to change with little effort. Finally some other influences are materials technology and craft.
If universal design is defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible…”(Raizman 371) do you think that we are achieving this in our society as a whole? Also do you feel that this new technical society is straying too far away from the previous handmade society we used to live in? And what in your own life do you think as the largest effect on modern design today?

16 comments:

olivia said...

When we are talking about a design that can be usable by all, that means a design that people of every generation can interact with. Most designs fit into this category in some way or another. Building designs can be interacted with by most people. A new design of car can be enjoyed by everyone. However, when you start dealing with this new age of an overwhelming use of technology, the different designs in many cases, aren't usuable by everyone. For instance, my mom has to have help to record a show on our TV. With one giant remote and five different ways to turn the TV on, anyone would have trouble. Older generations in our society didn't necessarily grow up with laptops, ipods and iphones. My grandparents don't even own a computer. They don't see the need to have one. With technology exploding in every direction, we have to understand that older generations can sometimes be easily intimidated. However efficient different technological gadgets are and how much easier they make our lives, if a great deal of the population isn't willing to accept and learn how to use it, it isn't much use. By becoming a more technologically based society, we are straying away from our previous "hand-made" society. That isn't a bad thing, because we have to make progress in different fields. Differnt technological designs are a crucial factor to say the health field. But we have to understand that some people just aren't willing to change their familiar way of life.

Veronica said...

I think that design today is able to reach all groups of our society, and is able to reach them by categorizing design by age, taste, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. I believe that design has been able through the centuries to improve and reach a point in which we can pretty much establish that a very broad group of people is satisfied by it. If on one hand our society has developed from being a "handmade society" to a materialistic and more manmade culture, on the other hand I feel that universal design has achieved a very high stage.
Today thanks to the faster and cheaper materials and ways to produce objects, everybody can afford almost anything. In addition we can afford these items in any way we want to, thanks to customization. By searching the web, one is able to customize anything, from shoes (Nike ID, Converse are some example) to clothes, computers and related technology (Ipods, laptops), furniture and fixtures (lighting, chairs, etc..). Taking the new IPods as an example one can choose the size, the color ( the nano-chromatic advertising is very effective by showing a wide range of colors to pick from), the memory space, features and accessories. You can also customize it by writing your name or anything you want on it.
Customization, the fast rate at which products are made and the rate at which products become in- and out- fashion make our society a throw-away society, strongly affected by mass production and fashion. I think that the factor that most affects design today is advertising and obsolescence. The demand for new, fashionable products is the gasoline of the design engine, and I believe it is what makes design move so fast throughout times.

Meredith J. said...

I think that "universal design" has evolved with the times. 100 years ago, universal design was different than it is today. Today is all about technology, and that is what seems to drive our society. I think in terms of the last 20 years, these generations are all about technology. Our generations of our grandparents, even our parents, did not grow up with all of the technological advances that our generation did, do in terms of "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible" isn't necessarily true. People who didn't grow up learning using computers in elementary school (like I did) aren't always so inclined to jump right on a computer that they have no idea how to use. I do think that to an extent we are somewhat straying away from the "simpler" times of just a few decades ago. Today, we have the Apple brand that is constantly putting out newer and newer advances like iPod touches and iPhones. We live in a technology-driven world, and even though all of this technology may help in the connections that we make and have with people, it somewhat detracts from the “olden” times when people called to have a lengthy phone call or even took time out of their busy days to sit and hand write a letter out to a family member or friend. I think that fact that the industry/economy is constantly marketing to our generation is a big factor in what we, and I, personally want. The industry targets teenagers and convinces them that if they do not have the newest edition of the MacBook Pro that our regular computer just will not be able to stand against it. I try not to get so sucked into wanting all of the newest technology, but when you are constantly around people with iPhones and PDA’s and 9” laptops, it is hard not to get sucked it. It is all around us, and if our society today has not changed our ideal of universal design, I have a feeling that it will in the next coming years.

Jessica Brake said...

I believe that design in today’s world is becoming more and more user friendly and is beginning to reach out to wider groups of people. As technology advances and increases the need for us to live in a faster paced world we constantly have to adjust our ways of living. I see this especially in cell phones and computers/internet. Nowadays more and more people turn to email and internet adds to communicate rather than the postal services and flyers. Green design has definitely had an influence on this transition. As for the use of miniature technology, like cell phones and lap tops, your average person couldn’t get through the day without their cell phone. Also, I see that the younger generations are beginning to be introduced to this technology at an earlier age. I remember when I first got a cell phone I was a sophomore in high school and now I see little 12 year olds walking around with their own cell phones. It goes to show that the target market for these companies is getting wider as the technology advances. In a way design has to be accepted by a wider population for the advancements to keep occurring. Design has to always appeal to any group of people.
I do believe that we are moving farther away from the handmade society we once lived in. I mean there are those generations that are still “stuck in the past” and have yet to adjust to the more recent advancements; but as a whole our society is too concerned about artificial obsolescence and always wanting the next best thing. Again, we see this in clothing, electronics, cars, etc. Design has to keep up with the pace of our world and right now this seems to be working.

Parahita Rachmani said...

Although it has not yet been accommodated to its fullest extent, universal design has become one of the most important aspects that designers have to think through. I believe that our society today keeps moving towards establishing universal design since it decrease discrimination among groups. For instance, the elevators are not only intended to facilitate movement in multiple-stories buildings, but also to assist the handicapped and the elderly to easily move within the space since they are not able to take the stairs. The development of the elevator may not have been possible if technology was not ever developed. Obsolescence that affected the growth of technology is certainly seen in today's society. It is overwhelming to keep up with trends and style that are always changing over a short period of time. Automobile manufacturers, such as VW and Honda, always come up with new design every year. And if we compare the various designs at glance, they are not that much different from each other. However, it is somewhat fascinating to see how little changes of features can bring psychological effects on society and simply influence them to purchase those brand new cars. Watching how people are racing with each other to have the most advance gadgets are discouraging, but at the same, technology brings endless possibilities and solutions in terms of design. Modern architects and designers, such as Frank Gehry and Eero Saarinen, would not have been able to construct their elaborate structures without the help of technology.

Amy Clark said...

I think universal design is an acknowledged focus of a specific company for a particular product category. I don't believe a generalization can be made that we as a society are trying to achieve this. For example, apparel designers who create high fashion denim are not very concerned with universal design. Their goal is not to develop a product that is usable by all people; a disabled person in a wheelchair would have a difficult time with most of these styles. Based on past research, this consumer group can more easily manage elastic or drawstring waisted pants with a looser fit. However as our book mentions, there are companies like Oxo Corporation who "exemplify the criteria of Universal Design" (Raizman, 370). They developed kitchen utensils with soft, rubber handles that were usable by all people. Again, I think the focus on universal design is company/product specific. Technological advancements to me, for the most part, are beneficial and provide convenience. I don't think that the technical society of today has ventured too far from our handcrafted past. This type of product is still available just at a higher price. You can find custom made furniture, clothing, jewelry, art, etc. This type of product is not mainstream and definitely has a limited target audience. However, there is such a wide array of merchandise available in the marketplace today(at different price points); I think there is something for everyone. Currently, my biggest impact on design is that of consumer. I definitely give into artificial obsolescence/current trends. This helps to drive the economy and helps to keep designers creating the next new thing.

Carrie.Marcum said...

As far as technology goes I feel in some ways we are achieving some forms of universal design. In the most resent news, everyone has to change over to a digital converter box from an analog TV set. This is universal design because it is giving everyone the right to better TV and is very cheap and/or free with a government coupon. As far as this new technical society, we are straying away from the previous handmade society we used to live in. There is really no more hand drafting; it is all done on AutoCAD. I feel that this is not a bad thing because more people are going to be attracted to the fields of design and not be in fear because they can’t draw. Some Architects have any turned to using this computer programs and coming up with some really great things. One of those architects is Frank Gehry. Gehry said, “The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall (in Los Angeles) could not exist today if we hadn't met Dassault, because there was no way to explore these kinds of shapes and make them economically feasible.” Dassault Systems is a world leader in 3D and PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) solutions, Dassault Systems develops and markets PLM application software and services that support industrial processes and provide a 3D vision of the entire lifecycle of products from conception to maintenance. In the end I feel that this technology is a step in the right direction for design. I feel that being a consumer is the largest effect my own life has on modern design. Obsolescence does affect me in some ways with always wanted the newest and biggest thing out there.

AinsleyW said...

Maybe because it's cloudy today I'm feeling pessimistic. But I don't really see 'Universal Design' as a serious consideration in everyday product design. I think it is a concept that interior designers and architects keep in mind when designing a space- making sure it is accessible to everyone, and doesn't include any person based on age, sex, or race. But as far as product design goes, I think anything that is designed for consumers is only in line with whatever is profitable. As much as I subscribe to the philosophy of sustainability, I think true sustainability is not about the choices you make in the store. So anything that is marketed to consumers as an ethically better product (organic! recycled! proceeds donated to cancer research!) is mostly a gimmick. Everything that people want you to buy is ultimately because your money would benefit them, not because your purchase would benefit all people.
I think a trend toward 'universal design' is evident, but not for any reason other than that's the trend right now. Because, ultimately, it's more profitable if everyone can use your product than if you exclude a certain group in order to reach another.

Sabrina said...

Design is a balance of acts, especially universal design. Universal Design must be attractive to a diverse group of people; it must function appropriately; it must be able to sell; it must have unique qualities that make it stand apart from other designs; it must stimulate deeper thinking; it must be deemed appropriate by all groups; it must be completely accessible; it must have technology that all can understand no matter what their age. Design is already a giant problem that one must solve, when all of these other categories are thrown in for universal design, design becomes a gargantuan conflict. However, I believe that it is because of all these small challenges within a challenge that designers have progressed so far already. Because of the stressful needs of mass culture, designers have had to compromise their idealistic designs to fit with these so-called "needs" of pop culture. Thus, they have been stimulated to a further extent in the creation and ideation of their design. All of these "needs" have stimulated new designs in themselves since designers have been obligated to consider them. Therefore, design is constantly being challenged and gaining more and moreo strength because of these challenges!

Christa Mueller said...

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, designs in America have been fuelled by the invention of more and more machines. There has been a shift from quality of product to the quality of life it will create. As mentioned before in class, it's hard to tell if these designs really will create a better quality of life or if that is just what the manufacturers want us to beleive. Either way, if we beleive that it will improve our way of life, we will buy it. Throughout the times since, there have been lulls in these booms of technology. These have been due to occurences like war and economical decline, such as the 20's, WWII, and the present. Yet after we get passed these lulls we continue on in our hunger for more and more technology, and the desire for easier ways of life.
But because this is something present in all countries, not just America, it is plain to see that it is not merelly a trend. People have always had an innate desire to create a better quality of life for themselves and for their families. But since the progress made in the Industrial Revolution, we have developed the more efficient tool of technology so that we are better capable of doing this. Though there will always be the bitter with the sweet, I think it's safe to say that technology has and will continue to improve our quality of life.

Julie said...

I think that the new way of designing our society to fit everyones needs is smart. We are meeting our needs and doing it in an effective and ecological way by turning everything we do into being green friendly. The idea of loosing sight of handmade things is threatened by this mass production of goods but we still cherish their creative ideas. One example of this is how target uses so many designers lines in their store but still mass manufactures all of their product. I think that they direction were going will help the econmic depression were going in by keeping things inexpensive but still focusing on the design as a whole to meet our needs and wants.

Sara Watson said...

To an extent universal design is being achieved. More and more things are becoming accessible to all types of people. ADA guidelines have really had an impact. Before the guidelines were in place, handicapped people had a real hard time moving around. Another side to universal design is all the improvements on everyday objects. Ergonomics have become a way to do these improvements. In the simplest things like handles on scissors and knifes make everday tasks easier. This is really the whole point for universal design. Technology really helps in making things more universal. Technology has basically become the driving force in society. Especially for my generation, we grew up with it. It is just so natural for us to use new technology. As for older generations, technology isn't so universal. I know my mom for a long time couldn't get on the internet without help. Not to mention using her digital camera...which never happens. I think it's especially hard for young people to understand why technology is so difficult. One of the funniest things was when someone at my church was talking about using facebook chat. Her son sent her an im and she couldn't figure out how to send one back. Resulting in her giving up and calling him instead. This is a great example of how technology isn't so user friendly for older generations. While technology is great, I do think we are straying from hand crafted things. People would rather pay for a bag of cookies than make their own. Not to mention sending emails instead for letters. It means so much more to get a letter in the mail than by email. You just know so much more thought and time went into it. While some things should revert back to before computers, most things are better. Technology has had a huge impact on design and will continue to do so.

nicoLe said...

In design today, it is evident that society feels that more is more. In most items there are now several if not more different types that fall under the same category. An example of this is the cell phone. Do we really need 63432781 phones that all can call, but some have bigger buttons or no antena or touch screens. It seems to me that we have gone a little overboard. all of the technology and functional advancements are overwhelming. I can only imagine generations before us, who are likely still learning to use their cell phones that slide to open. It is great to minimize and simplify, but is that really what's happening? I think it is overall making us lazier. I know I am guilty of calling my mother, on her cell phone, while she is downstairs and I am up. Its just rediculous. Everything is designed for a target audience, but there are many mainstream things that, in my opinion, are not practical for all people across the board.

Molly Rowland said...

Universal design is design available and used by all people of society, and I believe that design today is meeting this important goal.
In the recent years, technology has successfully been enforced into the majority of design projects. We even see this trend in children's toys, such as the ever popular gameboy. It is almost as if these modern products are preparing today's youth for a future technological world.
Overall, design is reaching all ages and is making a point to introduce technology to a younger generation. Advancements in technology won't be going away any time soon, nore will they ever.

Meaghan Boenig said...

I think that we as a society have succeeded in some ways and failed in other when it comes to creating universal designs. I think our greatest success came in 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. This act is significant to me because in high school I worked as an inclusion aid - or in other words, I worked with special needs kids doing many various activities. As an inclusion aid I truly believed in the phrase “Everybody plays.” And now, as a design student, I truly believe that design should be for everyone, including those with disabilities. And this is what ADA does. The ADA sets guidelines which help create environments that people with disabilities can enjoy as well. However, I think we have taken a step back in terms of creating universal design because of our dependence on technology. As Olivia and Meredith discussed in their blog entry, older generations did not grow up with this surplus of technology. And thus, some of them have trouble keeping up and using modern day designs or products.

Elizabeth Chaffin said...

For many of us, technology is easily used and it comes as second nature. However, with the generations before us, they seem to have a difficult time learning how to use these new concepts and technologies at their advantages. So really, are the designs today universal?
I know that the people of my generation and probably those proceeding and following can't go a day without checking their email or Facebook, let alone without touching their computer. But for generations a little older, they don't understand what the fuss is about. They were brought up in times where you created your own phone, usual by interacting with other people, not a "machine". Ultimately, the "modern" designs of technology we see today aren't entirely universal because of user compliance.
This concept even affects other designs, such as fashion and architecture, and related areas. (fashion) Designers and their "producers" know how to sell items because that's what they've been doing for such a long time. If they know a particular market is going to go crazy for an item, they will acclimate their designs to ensure the flourishing of the product by that group. Research goes into deciding "what's next" and "what's the big thing" and forecasts it via the media so the market will in turn have to have it.
As with design, the designer isn't thinking universally, although ADA compliances and other requirements are crucial, they are designing for the client. For instance, if a designer conjured up spectacular ideas for a kids play place as a whole building, themed as a jungle, this design probably would be categorized as universal. Not many adults would be able to enjoy it.
I feel as if universal design can't apply to everything. Designers have to design to fit certain needs, wants, and for trends in the market. This can sometimes put constraints on making the design universally friendly. As long as it is doing the job it was sought out to do, however, everyone can be satisfied.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.