A golden age of design

Original author: Rob Walker
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Thanks to the tandem of creativity, technology and a lot of money, the heyday of this area may soon reach us.

The golden age of design has been proclaimed several times in the last couple of decades - four, according to my calculations. Now, this hype, coupled with technology, the community and big business, has sparked something new. They created an incredible belief in the power of design, not only to promote the idea, but turned the design into the idea itself.

For starters, at the turn of the 21st century, it became a democratic occupation. Household items were made prettier and more accessible, and suddenly it became unacceptable for things to have a disgusting appearance. The second point came later, thanks to products such as the iPod, which is an example of the possibility of a view as a valid destination. “Design,” Steve Jobs told me in 2003, is “not just how it looks and feels. Design is how it works. ”And the business world has taken note that it can be used for profit.

People had the stunning idea that if design can make work more productive, then it can also make the world a better place. He (design) was proclaimed the creator of social change: Magazines such as “Good” spread the word about its impact on humanity and politics; The Cooper Hewitt Museum staged a show called “Design for the Other 90%,” and the then-popular T-shirt said, “Design will save the world.” Finally, the fourth point: the emergence of social media made it clear that the public did not just respond to the design. she “cared” for him to give him publicity. The new “Gap” logo was criticized by online mobs, and “Tropicana” redesigned its packaging of orange juice after a public rebuke.

These days, the Silicon Valley Engineering Center sees design as something that no longer just complements values, but also creates them. Last year, Google acquired Nest Labs, the creator of the sleekly styled “smart thermostat,” for $ 3.2 billion. It was not just a staggering amount of money for a company specializing in household items; this was Google’s second most expensive acquisition of all time. Industrial designer Yves Béhar, who works on an elegant Jawbone Up fitness tracker, sometimes accepts equity stakes instead of paying for startups he deals with. Instead of thinking of himself as an external consultant, Béhar invests in companies that invest in design, while counting on their continued growth. The idea that that design can be profitable now being reached by venture investors. The well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, rose last year by attracting John Maeda, the former president of Rhode Island School of Design, as a partner. The company turned its attention to the designers of start-up companies with the help of engineers, and not vice versa.

Mike Abbott of Kleiner introduced Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who switched from software to hardware when he founded Square, a straightforward product that allows anyone to accept credit card payments through a smartphone. Thus, Airbnb’s systematic thinking and simple user interface for providing free lodging / houses made it extremely popular - and received a valuation of $ 10 billion. Two of the founders are graduates of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). Competent design is essential to success.

“People who create things usually have no power,” says Maeda, “because they are busy developing things.” But he believes that this rule is undergoing changes, and that ultimately people like Airbnb's co-founders will lead creative thinking to everyday business practice.

This idea is also focused on another market - the market of ideas.

The influential senior architect and design curator MoMa (New York Museum of Modern Art) Paola Antonelli believes that one of the most important design functions is to "help people cope with change." Her exhibitions feature projects such as EyeWriter, a pair of glasses that are equipped with eye tracking technology that allows you to “draw” with your eyes. Designed for a paralyzed artist, this is a collaboration between technologists and designers who rely on open source software. They have no commercial goals. This is just a striking example of an expressive design project.

According to Antonelli, we live in an era of “recognized urgency” and practical sectors from science to politics find design as “a means of inspiration, alternative processes, imaginative presentation and raising the spirit”. (“Enjoyment” has become a buzzword in Silicon Valley.) As a result, design has greatly expanded its influence over recent years and now also covers sub-areas such as interactive design, critical, environmental design, social design, biodesign and service design. It has become a vehicle for expressing ideas, raising provocative questions and addressing social and individual concerns.

And yet, is design a component of the business or a distributor of ideas? Both that, and another, most often at the same time.

At first, the democratization of design was as follows — what could we buy. Now - what can we do and how can we sell it. The Etsy online market has determined how small producers can make a living, or at least finance a creative hobby. Last year, the site was visited by more than a million active stores. According to a 2012 survey, about a fifth of Etsy sellers decided to engage in their creative business as a full-time job. Crowdfunding services, such as Kickstarter, also allow novice designers to find support for their projects. An enormous success was the early stage of the smartwatch, called Pebble, which could connect to smartphones, display emails and messages, and even launch applications. Two years ago, without the support of the manufacturer’s company, not to mention investors, ready to take risks, the founders raised more than half a million dollars in a few hours, and as a result, 10 million to develop the device. As noted by Maeda, current student designers may be interested in creating a portfolio than simply in the idea of ​​public finance.

Allan Chochinov, head of the Graduation Program Design Product at the School of Visual Arts, talks about how design transgressed “from the aesthetic to the strategic, and to the public.” In his opinion, the ideology of "open source", which we usually associate with certain aspects of the technical culture, paved its way into design. ergonomic features and design merged; code companies create objects; object manufacturers link objects using code. Young designers need to be aware of tools like the Arduino platform (low-cost hardware for programming interactive items) and custom Raspberry Pi computers (the size of a credit card that can be inserted into monitors and keyboards).

Style, functionality and mechanical engineering are now one and the same, and even everyday objects are masterfully designed.

There is no doubt that all these combined elements - style, functions, social impact, creativity and profitability - brought a real vision of what design is and why it is important. He radically changed the way we perceive the world, starting with how we interact with objects, ending with our expectations of how these devices are structured. A new and exciting moment for the design lasts until the next one arrives.

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