When designing we like to consider:
the human body
fitness for purpose
Ultimately it has to be a useful thing
…and beautiful too
We make stuff and arrive at forms, materials, and processes to meet specific needs. Shaped by the skills, equipment, materials, and processes that are available. There is an overall sensibility, but ideas and inspirations are in flux; the more we do the more we understand or can express usethings design – in words and in objects.
Here are a few of the ways we think about design at usethings:
Relevant design – it’s almost diametrical to industrial design. It’s personal and meets your needs. Home made?… maybe local design or autonomous design would fit here, or vernacular design. These concerns may be idiosyncratic but if you can make (at whatever skill and resource level) something that meets your needs, this is good, this is design. Given the large scale approach in industrial design and the broad tastes in tries to serve, relevant design might be micro design.
Inevitable design – some things are inevitable… a chair is stable with 4 points of contact with the floor, many designers are pushing these boundaries – we all want recognition, but simple functioning objects will do. Especially if you look at the impacts embedded in some design decisions. While we love a beautifully shaped chair but if 50% of the timber has been wasted to arrive at the form, why push the boundaries just to escape inevitability… it’s kind of humble design.
Ex-designer – “… a generic system, with the function of taking on a new status within a profession, in this way breaking free of the limits implied by the discipline.” [http://www.ex-designer.com/] This resonates not so much challenging limits of the discipline, but breaking free of expectations and aspirations in design. It somehow frees us to do what we do. Frees us from seeking external acknowledgement other than making relevant stuff for people.
Local design – Having spent an entire day in Melbourne traffic recently chasing down veneer and linoleum for the All-ply tables we began to question the balance of time and resources going into a specific part or function of a design. Would local design be working mainly with available materials – not seeking exotic materials and processes, some of which could make sense in large scale production but we are not large scale. Is it like the 100km food thing? Would that be too limiting? What does design look like if oil (transport fuel) is scarce or too expensive? And is what we make relevant to our community? Designo Patagonia are engaged in local design.
Slow design has all the connotations of the ‘slow’ movement but we’d like to add to this the time it takes to understand and evolve a design, for example our new stools are in our office and we are feeling what it’s like to work on them for hours, and even the changes to the body from using them for months – with no back the balance and strength of the body changes. This experience takes time to embody and feed back into iterations of the design. You only begin to understand a design once you’ve made it ten times… then there is more to discover in the next hundred.
Hand made – we’ve been trying to find a way to express the resonance in an object that results from being hand made. Even simple forms that could be entirely machine produced seem to be different when made by hand. There is so much more to this than the term implies. Perhaps it is a quality without a name; Christopher Alexander talks about this in “The Timeless Way of Building”. There are vague hints of animism – consideration of the spirit of things: objects and tools, in making.
Designer-maker – probably the closest and more generally understood description that fits usethings design. It has reference to the hand – ie we make our own designs and the informing of design in that process is present in the objects we produce.
Furniture design – should be about the body, we’ve recently been inspired by the work of Dr Galen Cranz, and the requirements of a healthy body in furniture design… body conscious design as it is known. The body seems to have gone missing in furniture design, subsumed by cultural and disembodied design concerns like: materials, fashion, production, ego, and engineering.
I’ve been thinking lately about meaningful work, since seeing the Economics of Happiness, I’m quite happy doing the repetitive operations involved in the drying rack as it’s our product and we have a direct relationship with the people who buy them – it’s very satisfying. If I where on a wage and disassociated from that relationship – just clocking-on and doing the hours, I’d find the work pretty boring. It makes me think of local economies, cottage industries, and real relationships in production and consumption. We hope usethings will be a vehicle for meaningful work as we grow older and that we can maintain some value to the community – not being shunted out by retirement.
usethings also offer a design service, to assist others meet their needs with relevant objects rather than choose from the available compromises. Make an appointment to meet at our store and we’ll take you through a design process reconciling your needs and budget with materials and processes to arrive at a useful thing.