ART and DESIGN exploring SIMILAR ISSUES. Both works are looking at the question of the use of positive space, the volume that is available and that is effective. From art side, ‘Bath’, that is listed in the book “100: the work that changed British art”, approaches it by making a functional object totally dysfunctional. The base of a bathtub is exaggerated. It’s massive and solid plaster moulded parts make it feel very heavy and unmanageable. The glass that covers acutely the existent hollow space that is the core of the product looks opposite to the common sense. As a result the accent on the uselessness of the product that takes so much space “hits a raw nerve (Ellis, 2003, p.201).” This is what matters - the fact that it is disturbing - and “this is art in the real world (Ellis, 2003, p.201).” From design side, the exploration is revealed in the product that holds a function though the amount of effective volume is limited while the volume occupied is far more expanded than it could be. ‘Pluvio’ vase as well as ‘Bath’ looks quite big. However, the unusual position of flowers where they are dipped in water
Image 1. Rachel Whiteread ‘Untitled (Bath)’ 1990
throughout the whole length of the stem reminding of the floating lilies in a silent pond balances the shape. As a consequence the whole structure feels poetic and even spiritual. To add to this a famous quote of Charles Eames on the question of whether he designs for pleasure or for function could be cited: “Who ever said pleasure wasn’t functional? (Fletcher, 2001, p.412)” As seen such “added values” as poetic feel and the sense of incongruity could be achieved through basic shapes and simple materials. The mastery here is to combine them together in a way that the result far more exceeds the value of the simple sum of its parts: Even if the “form” was already well-known, previously discovered, carved from “commonplaces,” before the interior poetic light was turned upon it, it was mere object for the mind. But the soul comes and inaugurates the form, dwells in it, takes pleasure in it (Bachelard, 1994, p.22).
Image 2. Donata Paruccini ‘Pluvio’ 2010
ART and DESIGN exploring SIMILAR PROCESSES. Associating plastic with pottery. From art side Lucy Skaer is experimenting in this direction and brings to the surface not the result but the try-outs, tests and halfway finished pieces. This allows to look at the process of their creation, to explore the wider context of the question. The work could lead to inspirations in many directions as it shows the whole field for potential developments. Each halfway piece, be it a failure or incomplete potential success, could be picked up and explored further. From design side Thomas Heatherwick created the finished product. It has fixed qualities and is trimmed to fit all the frames of technological limitations that allow none of the alterations in terms of development. It
Image 3. Lucy Skaer ‘Liquid to solid in 85 years’ 2006
represents one of the millions of possible results belonging to the specified theme. Point of arrival as opposed to point of departure. Expanding the idea, ‘Spun chair’ could be said to be a consequence of ‘Liquid to solid…’ work. Taking the halfway test from the art side and finishing it to produce a widely available functional product –a chair, that suggests a comparison to a spinning top (as written on the price tag), it then challenges other notions. It is one of the objects associated with the Hayward gallery “New Decor” exhibition which context is explained as: Sabotaging the tyranny of designed and manufactured things and upsetting their social and cultural conventions, these works-individually and collectively-prompt us to shift and rearrange our mental furniture, and pose questions about the physical, intellectual and psychological relationships between objects, the spaces in which they are encountered, and ourselves (Rugoff, 2010, p.3) As a result could be assumed that in this case art work provides the ground, archetypal meaning for the object. Whereas design is used to develop this meaning further or to combine it with other meanings in order to produce a symbolically layered object and initiate other discussions. Image 4. Thomas Heatherwick ‘Spun chair’ 2010
ART and DESIGN exploring DIFFERENT ISSUES having similar VISUAL LANGUAGE. While looking at these works without any background knowledge could be said that they are correlated or explore related topics. Both are missing the essential part of the construction, but are still functioning due to the external support – one that is dynamic, another-static. If looking closer, the fact that context, the story behind the work, the author’s view of it plays the determinant role whether to consider it art or design becomes apparent. ‘Leg me…’ is positioned in the gallery space, with white clean walls where you understand instantly on what you need to accentuate your attention. The description tells that the point of departure when perceiving the piece is to associate it with the human being. The rotating leg that at a moment makes it complete suggests that the individual will be integer only for a short time and then again will be missing a part and all this process of union/reunion is cyclic.
Image 5. Diango Hernandez ‘Leg me, chair me, love me…’
At the same time ‘WANK’ could be found on Dezeen (online design magazine). According to the article, Alun positions his piece in the political sphere, rather than philosophical revealing the exact details: “The ‘white’ chair is missing a leg possibly due to a roadside IED bomb and is bleeding oil (Krzykowski, 2008).” It is quite hard to come across this work if you are not a creative who follows the news and keeps updated with the information posted on the specific to profession sources. This illustrates what is another distinction between art and design – who can see it and where – the audience and accessibility of the work. Is it physical or is it an ‘eye candy’ 1? _________________________ 1 The term used by Ralph Ball to address the products which aim is to be photographed and visually consumed through the means of media (Taylor, Ball, 2005)
Image 6. Alun Smith ‘WANK’
Moreover, the important aspect is responsibility. When speaking of the aims and objectives of any museum, Penelope Curtis (director of Tate Britain) said that one of them is developing the taste of the public 1. Does it mean that after looking at Hernandez’s work one would be able to acknowledge ‘WANK’ more, would be more prepared to “see” a story in the object? May be, but evidently the meaning does not come from the form or appearance or could be derived from them. It is infused afterwards while positioning a product within a particular context and frame of reference: “… the meaning of object is neither natural nor fixed: it is culturally constructed and changes from one historical context to another, depending on what system of classification is used (Hall, 1997, p.168).”
_________________________ 1 This simple and straight to the point answer fixed in my mind a long time ago so I can’t provide an exact source for it. Though the idea that museums are there for broadening visitor’s horizons, for showing the whole amplitude of what is available – from strangely dull to outrageously provocative, is supported by the directors of the first in the US Design Museum Amy and Sarah Hewitt: “For the worker, the source of inspiration is frequently found in the sight of an unexpected object, possibly one of an entirely different trade (Bloemink, 2004, p.7).” Moreover, the explanation that Joel Shapiro provides for his cast iron small-scaled chairs, reveals another purpose for art – make you think. Art as “mental exercise”: …what characterizes them conceptually was the play they elicited as structures we recognize from our daily lives, and our acknowledgement of their functional impracticality. On one hand, we project ourselves into these familiar objects; on the other, we are always aware of this “projection” as an impossible psychological fiction … I was interested in the image as a projection of thought, mental space. The discourse between memory and the present was amplified by the small scale. This had no utility other than as a mental exercise … (Bloemink, 2004, p.103)
Heightening the level of DESIGN. ART and DESIGN on PHILOSOPHICAL matters. The principle used in art can almost always be applied to throughout all of human life… the character, appearance, or function of a thing is subject to modification when it is extracted from the environment and displaced to another, or that one cannot define a thing without describing its context (Behrens, 1983, p.38). A very vivid example – highly discussed ‘Work N79’ by Martin Creed, Turner prize winner in 2001. Is a piece of blue tack - Art? That was one of the most common questions back in 1993 and even now it remains topical. Yes, as long as it arouses a discussion and examines the ways we look at the things.1 Gold pills could be referred to as the design endeavour to tackle intangible matters. If you eat one, will it
Image 7. Martin Creed ‘Work N79’
increase your value? Could measurable physical and personal internal values be compared? If analyzing the difference between these works, one could outline the aspect of authenticity. Blue-Tack work could be done by virtually anyone but there is only one that is “Art” and that is valuable. Gold pills are sold at a price $425 each and the value of each and every one will be equal and not less than the nominal price. Is design occupying art space? May be, but the whole idea of the fluctuations towards it “is not to pull art down. Nor it is to crown design as the new art. But it is certainly to elevate design” (Foster, 2003, p.98). As with controversial Art works, which absolute good is in generating the discussion, creating useful and engaging conversation around it as well as keeping up the energy to ensure the market is in a good shape
Image 8. Gold Pills
(Stout, 2007), design works of the similar kind do all the stated but in a wider context reaching for more people and becoming more diverse. 1 Here is the author’s intention that sheds light on the concept of the work revealing its depth: In the case of Blue-Tack … I was thinking about making something in the world. I mean, I was thinking about the fact when you do something or make something it’s always something extra for the world. And I was thinking about where the join is between the thing you do and the world, and how it joins, and whether it’s something which is just the part of the world… I was looking literally at adhesives and adhesive tapes and ways of sticking, and I tried using Blue-Tack just because it was one of the most available ways to stick something on. (Art now: interviews with modern artists, 2002, p.97)
The featured examples aim to show the states in which art and design while having similarities either in approach or in appearance still hold a very clear separation in terms of context and framework applied to each. They reveal that the influences are common. What differs is the idea’s execution and the specific to each of the fields limitations to be met.1 DESIGNART. Introducing a new term. Meanwhile, a particular kind of design referred to as DesignArt is getting a stronger ground. 2 Just as Bauhaus movement, which had a starting point in Weimar and was led by a pleiad of the world’s most
Image 9. Sebastian Brajkovic ‘Lathe V’ 2007
original thinkers at a time (Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer), DesignArt in its present state could be said to be born in Holland. Back in 1993 Droog design first appeared on an international scene and that was the start of it all: We shook up the design world with some strong ideas. Everything rotated around the concepts behind the designs, and those concepts had to be strong ones. We pared every product down to bone: what it’s for, what history clings to it, and what idea is lurking beneath the surface. The visual design was completely subordinate to the ideas we wanted to convey. The upshot was that we completely undressed the products so you could see what they were really about (Hella Jongerius on Droog, Foster, 2003, p.90). At present it’s been the 4th year of Pavilion of Art and Design London at Berkeley Square which happens during the Frieze and is dedicated solely to DesignArt objects. By doing so it signifies the developing market for it. As for the public interest – it’s already there. Design magazines dedicate ‘Feature’ articles of
Image 10. Ralph Nauta And Lonneke Gordijn ’Fragile Future Concrete Chandelier’
every issue to write about new stars of Royal College of Art or Design Academy Eindhoven – the places to _________________________ 1 Donald Judd (both artist and designer) put it in a direct way: “… the forms of art and of non-art have always been connected…the separation is due to collecting and connoisseurship” (Bloemink, 2004, p.34). 2 I am referencing it as design because all the products that are considered to be DesignArt are done by designers – usually those who have Design degree and are represented by the galleries working with decorative arts/contemporary furniture. Moreover, while talking to galleries’ owners at Frieze Art Fair this year it became absolutely clear to me that Art is a separated world as none of them were either interested or particularly familiar with DesignArt.
look for in order to keep a track of DesignArt movement. 3 Sebastian Brajkovic is probably one of the most well-known graduates in the field. ‘Lathe’ chair looks as a harmonious union between graphic, furniture and textile (taking into account that it is hand embroidered) design. It is not mass-produced. Limited editions are available through galleries. This fact states its belonging to the high-end class and special position within the field. Interestingly, the approach of the designer also is biased very much towards artistry. 2 Another piece that has won the main prize of the Pavilion this year is ‘Fragile Future Concrete Chandelier’. I saw it myself and it does trigger imagination. Delicate, witty and extraordinary it stops a passer-by and converts them into a devoted beholder. If explaining the whole feel of these works one could say that they are aesthetically pleasant, unusual and functional objects that make us wonder and experience a visual dream of an author that adds to the dreams of our own. Judging by their success within contemporary society, this is what good design should do. 3 “Is design ephemeral? Some needs are ephemeral. Most designs are ephemeral,”- laconic description of the phenomena by Charles Eames (Foster, 2003, p.156). All these examples show that Design is steadily altering its way towards Art sphere. In what environment all this happen, as well as how is it possible to use ‘the power of the two’ will be discussed further. 1
Almost every contemporary Design celebrity is an alumni of one of these institutions. Eindhoven: Marcel Wanders, Tord Boontje, Hella Jongerius. RCA: Thomas Heatherwick, Jasper Morrison, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, Martino Gamper 2 The “key” of the work is its idea, rather than the need it answers. According to the author: “This extruding idea came from a Photoshop function where you can pick a row of pixels and extend them as long as you want” (Lathe by Sebastian Brajkovic, 2009) 3 George Nelson’s statement, year 1957: “Good design, like good painting, cooking, architecture, or whatever you like, is a manifestation of the capacity of the human spirit to transcend the limitations. It enriches its maker through the experience of creating, and it can enrich the viewer or user who is equipped to respond to what it has to say.” (Coles, 2005, p.22)
ENVIRONMENT. art. How does Art acts now and what are the aims of contemporary artists? The discussions of art targeting only the few, those who understand what it is all about are common through the history. Though if following Charles Saatchi in the way he enjoys art, the explanation seems to be quite straightforward: “If art can make you step into the world of the person who’s made it and convince you of the clarity of the artist’s imagination, it’s doing plenty” (Ellis, 2003, p.11). Moreover, if considering the intentions of the contemporary artists, they are looking for wider audiences; trying to make them a part of the work 1, stimulate their reaction and engagement1. As Bruno Munari states, nowadays “the artist wants to make the viewer participate at all cost” (1971, p.12): In general terms, Grégoire Müller explains this tendency: “Artists … insert themselves directly into reality. They offer a life experience rather than a codified aesthetic experience.”(1972, p.27) Also they can influence one’s own life experience. Barbara Bloom hopes to change the perception of the world of a viewer. By offering a cup in a particular surroundings within her installation she aims to inspire them to think differently of the form and the implications of all the drinking vessels used in their daily lives (Bloemink, 2004, p.119). Or, if being more ambitious, they can aim to penetrate into one’s life: “Early modernists such as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky were absolutely driven by the idea to unite art and the everyday; the idea of art, not as an added, decorative layer, but as something fully integrated in modern life” (Poynor, 2005, p.99). In this ‘closer’ approach to a viewer, in search of the themes that are alluring to everyone, artists more and more use the means of everyday objects – _________________________ 1 Julian Opie: I don’t want to make a piece of work that’s like a secret cupboard that no one ever thought would be open, but you have got to open it. What I want is a sense that the viewer, whoever that is, is a part of a triangle, and that their response completes the work. I think that often the way critics look at a show is very literal and literary, whereas ordinary people seem to be more relaxed and associative in the way they relate to the work (Art now : interviews with modern artists, 2002, p.62). Antony Gormley: …these works is an instrument for me to confront myself with my own existence … an instrument for other people to do something similar… It’s an opportunity for a very simple sort of reaction, to ask “What is this? What the hell is this thing doing here?” And the reflexive question that follows: “and what am I doing here? And how am I looking” (Art now : interviews with modern artists, 2002, p.13).
either experimenting with the existing ones or offering their own versions of them. 1 Is there any risk of crossing the assigned for art borders in this case? From one side, yes: Here ‘those who use urn as a chamber pot’ are Art Nouveau designers who want to infuse art (the urn) into the utilitarian object (the chamber pot). Those who do the reverse are functionalist modernists who want to elevate the utilitarian object into art (Marcel Duchamp). For Kraus the two mistakes are symmetrical – both confuse use-value and art-value – and both are perverse in as much as both risk a regressive indistinction of things: they fail to see that objective limits are necessary for ‘the running room’ that allows for the making of a liberal kind of subjectivity and culture. (Foster, 2003, p.68) ‘The running room’ meaning the frame of reference – the context, the audience, the requirements and expectations we hold for a particular field. Yes, the danger of tangling the system of art and design values is there. But as the process of cross-infusions have been there for a long time, 2 it gradually has been forming a middle path – where design and art are inseparable, obtaining its own rules and guidelines and taking the advantages of both components. “The world of total design is hardly new – imagined in Art Nouveau, it was retooled by the Bauhaus, and spread through institutional clones and commercial knock-offs ever since – but it only seems to be achieved in our own pan-capitalist present” (Foster, 2003. p.69). design. Indeed, today’s consumer seems to be more demanding of emotional attachment, rather than the objective perceived value. We stopped purchasing and started to invest as we look for objects that speak to us (Objects, 2010, p.122). All this has a logical explanation that lies in cultural development 3 and testifies the current consumer need for 4-dimensional fulfilment – 4 th being an extra quality – something you experience physically (look, sense) or something you experience mentally (mood, feel): “If art has always aimed to fulfil those higher needs, some design disciplines are already tapping into them, creating products with a character, which tell a story, arouse curiosity or stimulate our thoughts” (Troika, 2008, p.11). 1
Julian Opie: “What I’m more interested in doing is somehow reflecting on the existent world and thinking about it – looking at it and making my own version” (Art now : interviews with modern artists, 2002, p.64). 2 “The separation of “fine” art from design is a fairly recent Western conceit, and has only been considered an issue during certain eras…”( Bloemink, 2004, p.18) 3 “The fact is that most of the objects that are supposed to satisfy our needs are not in tune with them any more. In a society such as ours, where all the basic needs are extremely met with a multitude of choice options, the multiplication of practical functions serves no real purpose. Instead, we have reached the upper levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where we seek more individual, psychological needs, such as self-fulfillment, self-affirmation and intellectual stimulation” (Troika, 2008, p.11).
We discussed the need, now would be suitable to talk about designer’s approach to the current conditions. How they see themselves and what they aim to achieve? According to Alan Fletcher, designers are “the blue-collar workers of the art world” (Fletcher, 2001, p.413). It might have been so but more recent reviews on the theme suggest there were some critical shifts of the notion. Jasper Morrison approves: “As ‘fine’ art and design have almost merged over the last few years the idea of a designer working anonymously to make something useful for the benefit of the masses is not on the menu” (2010, p.40). Following the line, there should be an individuality of a creator revealed through the object which will add to or even convert a common thing into a favourite one. Explaining this idea Marcel Wanders compares a designer with a composer. If one will come up with an objective song – no one will enjoy it as it lacks the depth of emotions and is too general. While if it would be a personal, intimate and dearest creation – it will find its way to everyone’s heart. He says: “The consequence of new design, which is more human, is a person, a personality that stands out, which I think is fabulous because not just me, but other designers also who have been able to create a more personal type of design” (Special report: the Oporto show 2010, p.95). It occurs that in the current environment design seems to flourish in the freedom provided: it touches art spheres and applies its risks forgetting of the final outcome. As a result, the abundance of useless objects, united under the name of Post-materialist design, is criticized rather often: “For some reason, as a tool for self-expression design often lacks the functionality which originally distinguished the field from art. However, design typically doesn’t manage to present itself as critical or sensible like art either” (Puolakka, Sutela, 2010, p.121) Nevertheless, designers are fearless in exploring new methods to generate work and explore quite experimental ways to do so. Marten Baas recently moved his workshop to a farm house to be immersed into rural surroundings and to see then where it would lead him to (Beard, 2010, p.114). Such a brave initiative may be a good example for another point of view where design is considered “a grander gesture of merging art and life, as a productive convergence of high and low” (Foster, 2003, p.80). Next, I am going to discuss how products (and experiences they provide) may effectively incorporate components of the two: art and design.
After discussing the context where art and design are meeting or coming closer as well showing that this tendency has a promising future for development, I would like to concentrate on how a product can be a result of the two, i.e. what principles and approaches of each of the discipline could be combined in order to produce a greater result. Approaching the question from the design side, I intend to find out useful methodologies to be implemented in the design process1 that will lead me to produce a final outcome that would represent a physical exploration of the issue: putting theory into practise. APPROACH: Generating ideas. ‘Ideas’ stage could be probably referred to as the most creative process in the activity that leads to a visible result. Art side itself does not provide us with the clear direction of how one may come up with an ingenious thought but the analysis of it has led to the general identification of what ‘creativity’ is: “In its wildest definition, metaphor is sometimes said to be exactly the same process as creativity” (Behrens, 1983, p.38). The way such metaphors are seen and used is also a subject of each discipline. Art usually takes on symbolic approach – it challenges our common place thinking with unexpected solutions, situations and ways of looking at things – all through the use of signs 2. Design uses metaphors in a more applied form – through looking at what has already been done - as a way to innovate, to transfer the progress from one field to another. Tom Kelley from IDEO uses a similar term – “cross pollination” – when referring to ground-breaking ideas. “We often begin by wearing the glasses of totally different disciplines” (Kelley, 2004, p.155). Both ways of the term adaptation lead to a strong outcome – be it a more engaging and understandable aesthetic experience or a better product – both bear a creative touch. Also, a crucial component is the time spent on a question3. Logically, here art has an absolute advantage - the nature of design industry does not allow a deep immersion into the explored subject. 1
Phases of the design Process: Define (select focus: intention/motivation) - Discover (collect data) – Synthesize (extract findings/define opportunities) – Generate (Sketch, critique, prototype, evaluate) – Refine (Make form, describe behaviour) – Reflect Source: After Zimmerman (Research through design, 2008, p.43) 2 “We readily project archetypes onto people and events in the real world, we need to be able to recognize these projections as part of ourselves and to re-assimilate them. One of the chief functions of symbolic ritual and art may be to help forward this process of reintegration by enacting it before our eyes” (Rawson, 1987, p.144). 3 “Creativity requires a cognitive-perceptual style that involves the collection and application of diverse information, an accurate memory, use of effective heuristics, and the ability and inclination to engage in deep concentration for long periods of time” (Styhre&Gluch, 2009, p.226)
Then, it is the combination of time and the way the critique is executed. Design uses brainstorming, where the main policy is “the more the better.” Quantitative approach. Art is closely considered with heuristic research where one becomes united with a problem, deeply emotionally involved with it. In this way all assumptions, all critique and analysis are performed by one person, i.e. artist himself 1. It becomes a personal journey to discover the truth, first of all for yourself, and only after for others. The way in which this truth is revealed is also a subject to individual preferences as well as skills and sources (technology, materials) available. A kind of qualitative approach – full-time artist depends on the quality of the final result that will be exhibited and considered rather than on the process of producing it (if only the process is not the key to the art work). The main difference here is the value a designer and an artist put into work, the level of their attachment to it. For the artist it is almost a question of ‘life and death’ while a designer considers it to be ‘one of a million.’ As a consequence, result becomes a reflection of the ‘care’ given to the idea and probably that is the reason an artist is more expected to be a pioneer after whom the route for further exploration becomes open. Interestingly, when a designer spends a great amount of time and effort on the question, they usually come up with the world’s most important discoveries. A good example is the airplane by the Wright Brothers who were the first to make a banked turn possible and by that a successful manned powered flight was achieved. Through the analysis of their working process nowadays scholars try to establish the ways to radical innovation, its principles. One of them according to Bereiter is: “Looking where the light is”: researching the researchable versus venturing in the dark” (2009, p.239). This could be said in more general terms, i.e. rather than trying to create an absolutely new form/product/experience through different uncoordinated resources it is more efficient to look at the existing development in different fields, which while being innovative still hold a history to follow and probably provide a clue 1
Howard Hodgkin citing Matisse approves a thought: “Nowadays an artist is completely on his own.” He has to be his own patron, his own critic, and … his own commentator.” As for the heuristic research that is unique to everyone, Moustakas provides a clue of the level of ‘personal’ it gets: “Checking and judging and accepting that together constitute understanding are done by me and can be done for me by no one else. They are as private as my toothache…” (Moustakas, 1990, p.33) 2 One of the advices in the book of the suggestions for designers to boost their creativity is: “The static routine of the workplace can narrow our minds. Enlarge your creative scope through regular explorations of the vast territory known as The World of Art” (Krause, 2003, p.182). It assumes the post-nature of design in relation to art. As well as the statement of Kelley that “… you learn from people who break the rules” (2004, p. 39), is used in the context where a designer is learning from the existing experience and its effects to apply it somewhere else. So a designer adapts the discoveries made by an artist to fit in a particular field or uses them as a point of departure to generate ideas.
where it could be taken further. Another principle is: “Invest in abstraction … Treat analogies as stepping stones” (Bereiter, 2009, p.239). With the airplane it was the approach from the two contrast sides: one being very practical and one very abstract, dreamlike. Structural resemblance with the bicycle was taking as a starting point to develop the mechanism. Bird’s analogy was driving the progression providing the way this mechanism should be taken, stating the ideal outcome -that when the resemblance with a bird will be achieved. So, the 2 points - the start and the end – were fixed, what was left – the path in between. For filling this path Bereiker provides one more principle which states: “Theory-into-practise” versus progressive design” (2009, p.239). Rather than jumping the whole way straight to the bird-like product which probably will fail at first, it is more effective to apply small adjustments (that increase the bird likeness) and testing them out on the working mechanism (bicycle). To sum up, evolutionary development as in nature leads to sustainable and safe progressive results. APPROACH: Considering symbols. In design, famous ‘Form follows function’ has now become ‘Form follows idea’
that usually result in a quite “flat” outcome meaning too much
sacrifice of function and materials for the sake of making real a certain visual trick that wears off rapidly (the details were discussed above). Meanwhile, this movement of bringing an extra feel to the product by infusing a symbolical meaning into it is definitely a good one as it opens a new side of perception (emotional, intellectual) in the user and answers the need of our contemporary society. 2 Probably because it is still comparatively new and only makes its root by testing and probing the ground of available resources a good way will be to consider how in art a form is approached and after see if that approach could be used in design process. Symbolism in art has a huge history. Trying to find a particular way of implementing it is quite a futile thing to do. I will just outline the descriptions of the works of Art – ones that are historically and culturally acknowledged – concentrating on how they implement symbols. _________________________ 1 Naylor and Ball discuss all the pros and cons of such a trend in design in the book with the same name “Form follows idea: an introduction to design poetics.” 2 Bruce Mau is describing the current environment: “In this environment the only way to build real equity is to add value: to wrap intelligence and culture around the product. The apparent product, the object attached to the transaction, is not the actual product at all. The real product has become culture and intelligence” (Foster, 2003, p.71)
Symbols could be compared to colours on a palette. Depending on what you are going to create you use them accordingly. If it is the contrast of the two, opposite in meaning and contexts - they will boost the power of each other. If it is a watercolour combination of plenty, which are similar in meaning, though have different nuances – they will create a harmonious landscape with the variety of shades and moods. Or if it is the burst of one colour (symbol) expressed in diverse shapes/mediums/dozes – it is likely to change the way you used to see it. All that works well as long as you know what you want to express and position it accordingly. Otherwise, there is a danger of having one brownish-grey blot representing a mix of everything or an elemental shape monotonously coloured that does not give much pleasure either. Accurately layered accents– this might be the key: “The overall meaning of the form will not be confined to any of those things (meaning of symbols), but all the instances will be part of the meaning. They create, so to speak, a “halo” of resonance through structural analogies with each other. Such metaphor gives works of art their special quality of aesthetic radiance” (Rawson, 1987, p.136). Also, symbols could work in a lever-like system, where two simple objects (e.g. stick & stone) create a very productive mechanism that obtains an independent value and is seen as a starting point by itself when dealing with advanced systems (e.g. water-pump station). Similar, taking the example of gold coating and pitchfork (see appendices) – when combined, they completely reinvent the meaning of each while at the same time as a whole body they question wider notions, such as luxury and rusticity. 1 Finally, it is a scientifically proven fact 2 that a mystified symbol – uncompleted, the one that leaves some space for a viewer to finalize it individually fills the work with energy. It starts to trigger and agitate: “The most compelling works of art are probably closer to riddles. They are flirtatious, incomplete, and always partially veiled. They tease us to complete them, to fill in the missing links. They are the “creations” of artists, but they must as well provide for the “re-creations” of the viewers” (Behrens, 1983, p.61). Thus symbols are used to produce a meaning of the work. Contexts and live acts (demos) – are produced as well to establish a history for the meaning. 1
In art theory this phenomenon is also described by the first nature/second nature of the work. “In much of the world’s greatest art the image is figurative – a second nature or “notional object … Second nature is a mental structure of forms whose focal meaning seems somehow to reflect our experience of first nature, but is in no sense a copy of it” (Rawson, 1987, p.220). 2 Zeigarnik effect: “A principle of perception, proposed in 1927 by the Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, in which it is predicted that people will give attention to, and retain in memory longer, things which are disturbing, unsolved, complex, or ambiguous” (Behrens, 1983, p.38). 3 “Since the ‘cultural turn’ in the human and social sciences, meaning is thought to be produced – constructed – rather than simply ‘found” (Hall, 1997, p.5).
APPROACH: Future. Interactivity. Technological advances shift design towards a more humanized state where a product becomes a responsive friend or a transmitter for other person’s presence – all that coming under title of Interactive design and the rise of Generation C (Troika, 2008). Products that apart from performing their usual functions are also able to ‘talk’ or to play an active role in our social life become more widespread and they do seem to provide a lot more excitement for a user and as a consequence are able to improve the whole experience of our day-to-day life. A good example is ‘Lolita’ by Ron Arad – a chandelier of classical look, composed of Swarovski crystals. Breathtaking lighting structure that accepts and shows SMS messages sent to it is one of the interactive products that I am referring to.
Image 11. Ron Arad chandelier ‘Lolita’ 2004 Image 12. Under scan, Relational Architecture 2005-2006
Art moves in the same direction. Interaction enables it to break the glass, fulfil the space and deliver the “inner spectacle” of delight and anxiety” (Bullivant, 2005, p.33) to a viewer. And again, it tends to follow the mentioned social direction where it reflects or incorporates the human character/behaviour/look so that a viewer gets an impression they are dealing with a life system and acts accordingly. An example here is an installation ‘Under scan’ where video-portraits of different people are playing in the shadows of the pedestrians walking down the square in the evening.
Evidently, nowadays Vilem Flusser’s statement made in 20th century, which considers design as a blend of art and technology which aim is to create new forms of culture (Coles, 2005, p.10) still remains abreast of time. Though, it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish one from the other. Rapid progress results in the formation of a huge experimental space where works from both disciplines are collected in order to be shown, discussed and challenged again. Art seems to be breaking its shell and dissolving in the air. Now its influence could be traced everywhere (technology, science, architecture, virtual reality) and design becomes a powerful tool to spread it even further: “By changing art into a visual culture of design and incorporating audience participation, contemporary art would “take an increasingly relative position. It will place itself not in front of, but around, behind, underneath the audience - in an operational capacity” (Bloemink, 2004, p.54).
CONCLUSION. After conducting the research as well as trying to implement the methods and principles described above my design direction formed into a practical realization of the issue discussed, i.e. creating a product that incorporates components of the 2. I’ve tried to use heuristics (art approach) to come up with an original and thoughtful concept. While looking at the examples and analyzing them I understood that an innovative touch should go in pair with keeping the conservative aspects of the form. The first one helps to produce a ‘Wow’ effect while the latter makes it accessible so that discovery will be made by a user and no explanation will be needed. In order to have an interactive aspect in a product, I am referencing to the habits we have while socializing everyday. This will be the theme for the art component of a product. So the overall intention formed to be awakening the user every time they get in contact with the product, eliminating the routine actions. The tools to use: video incorporated in design as well as playing on the theme of sociality. Can the act of opening a drawer be compared to shaking a hand? Or touching a ‘hand’ of the drawer in order to access the inside of it? Or the idea of holding objects in a drawer – how much physical it can get? Could it be compared to asking a friend to hold them on their lap? I believe my exploration follows the general tendency discussed – art and design are able to and are found more and more often to be in symbiosis. They are coexisting to magnify the performance of each other: art improves on the level of intellectual and emotional engagement while design spreads the result widely and makes it accessible and enjoyable for much more people. If so, why not to use the power of both, adopt the successful techniques of each and with that knowledge head up to innovate for the future? Design, rather than art, is foremost now in embodying the visual spirit of the age. Millions get by without going anywhere near an art gallery, but everyone is touched in some way by design. Perhaps what we are seeing in the inexorable rise of design is the gradual reunification of art… and everyday life. If art is so important to our social, mental and spiritual well-being, why should we keep them apart? (Foster, 2003, p.98)
Published on Dec 20, 2010
Looking into techniques to generate ideas from Art field and processes to develop them from Design field - in order to get the most appealin...