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Disappointed with Objectified

[Edited: Grammar and Phrasing]

I really was not going to write much this week, being sick and all. But after a blog post and comment exchange, I cannot help but feel fired up to share some of my thoughts here.

I’m sure by now most of you would have heard about Objectified, a documentary on Industrial Design by Gary Hustwit of Helvetica fame. News of it is running all over the design blogosphere, I caught wind of it from Core77.

When I first read about it, I thought “GREAT!” more exposure on our wonderful industry. But after reading about the list of designers being considered, I could not believe my eyes! The list seems to cover the stereotypes what Industrial Designers “are” or “should be”. Not surprisingly, the documentary picked a “sample space” of designers which were the usual list of design superstar suspects.

So I decided to visit the Objectified website, and to my surprised it was a blog. I though good, they want to talk, so I left a comment (reproduced here):

Great to see this and am excited on its release. However I did noticed a serious lack of viewpoints from Asian designers. As it is now, I think this would biased the film towards the usual designer suspects from the west, the majority of which the world already know a lot about. They are the so called “design superstars”.

Asian design will be a strong player in the next 5-10 years or less, and I would have liked to see a revolutionary film such as this, cover a truly global view of design.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would be interested in some recommendations or viewpoints of designers trying to make a difference in the East.


About a day later, here was my reply from Gary Hustwit.

DT – Ditto. Asian design and designers definitely factor into our discussion in the film. I think Naoto Fukasawa is doing some amazing work. And if we felt we had to showcase a designer from each country in the world with an active design scene/history, we’d only be able to spend a minute with each person. This isn’t that kind of film.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the reply? But suffice to say I was a little surprised and disappointed at this comment reply. Does this mean that Gary considers Naoto a representation of Asian design in general? Or was Naoto only worthy enough to be included?

Let us now look at the about page for a little more information on the documentary.

Objectified is a feature-length independent documentary about industrial design. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. It’s about the people who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. It’s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability. It’s about our relationship to mass-produced objects and, by extension, the people who design them.

Through vérité footage and in-depth conversations, the film documents the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?
(Bold text are mine.)

I have nothing against Gary, and I do not intend to demean all the fantastic work he has put into both his films and its betterment of the design industry.

However from my stand point there is so much more Asian design can offer the world, and this documentary has an opportunity to share the complete picture rather than the usual choice stereotypes which will unfortunately biased the production.

What about Niti Bhan’s work focusing on the Bottom of Pyramid (BOP)? What about Yao Ying Jia, Lenovo’s Director of Design, looking at new computing archetypes? Or Haier’s White Goods taking the world by storm, but still finding time to connect with the local Chinese farmers with vegetable washing machines?

While we are at it, lets not just only focus on Asian design, what about other aspects of Industrial Design that are not quite entirely mainstream but equally as important?

What about the future of our designed and materials ecosystem? Notably missing are designers leading the forefront of sustainable design such as Janine Benyus. What about the impact of Industrial Design by rapid prototyping technology as explored by Gershenfeld and reBang? How about Brands such as Philips and their efforts in future probing so that our lives with technology can so much better? This is by-far not an exhaustive list, but granted, not as sexy as Objectified’s list that contains the superstars like Bangle from BMW, Ive from Apple or the Bouroullec brothers etc.

So as Gary said “This isn’t that kind of film”, so I like to ask just what kind of film should it be?

All that being said, I am looking forward to the documentary. There is not enough being done to expose the industry in this way, but I cant help feeling that it could have been just this much better.

Photo Musings

A little slow down in postings this week as I’m feeling under the weather. So instead, I though I might share a blog post of my latest photos taken with my brand new Canon Powershot G9. Enjoy this Photo blog…*cough cough*

Lizard Suntan
Lizard’s Suntan

Politically correct Bathroom sign
Politically correct Bathroom Sign

Lost in a Jungle
Lost in a Jungle


Ball Tree
Ball Tree

Children at Play 01
Children at Play 01

Children at Play 02
Children at Play 02


Meta Design Links: 25 July 2008

1) Billy Graham: Technology, faith and human shortcomings. A presentation he did on TED about the real problems we should be using design and technology to solve.

2) Tired of your Moleskine? (Mine’s not even open!) Check out this Monster collection of Moleskine hacks to give your new or tired Moleskine a new life.

3) Check out the strongest material tested. Though strong it looks very soft to me, ah the ironies of life.

4) While we are on technology, check out the new High-Tech Sports equipment and apparel that is going to help Olympic athletes win in Beijing.

5) Now lets get back to work with 9 ideas for better brainstorming.

6) Finally lets wrap it up with an interview with Ross Lovegrove on his thought on modern design, sustainability, and his very beautiful Solar Trees.

Think of Creating a Language Rather than a Form

Heard in a fictional design studio near you.

Me: Yo man, how is it going?

Designer: Great! I’m just sketching/developing/refining this concept.

Me: Cool, so how do they look?

Designer: Here they are…

Me: Hmm…so what are we looking at here?

Designer: Ah…I’m inspired by [insert suitable object] and creating this to match [insert product], but then to make it different, I’m using [insert line description] to create [insert dynamic] between these two elements…

Me: But, it does not look anything like your inspiration nor is it logical to what we want to do here?

Designer: Eh…what?

Me: Ok, basically what are you trying to communicate with your design?

Sound familiar?

Or perhaps another scenario could be you are working on a design and it does not seem to be going anywhere as you are either stuck or it’s well just crap! You see, what you are basically doing is random doodling rather than intelligent drawing.

Under these circumstances, what I always tell my design team, is to focus on creating a design language rather than just a form. In other words, ask yourself what is this shape trying to say or trying to tell me?

Why is that?

What many designers don’t realize is that design is a communication tool and a product’s form needs to therefore communicate the product’s intent. The product’s intent can consist of many factors. These includes target market requirements, branding, ergonomics, design language standards, technology, etc. Its all depends on how you define the product’s brief.

So when you are styling a product’s form, you are actually communicating, to the user, the what and how this product should function. A language if would you like. Unfortunately many designs fail on this one simple point.

If you focus on that fact, you will suddenly realize that the shape you have created suddenly has meaning, or maybe it does not. Once you start to ask about the meaning or are looking to apply meaning to your form, your design thought starts to become multi-dimensional.

The reality is that, this tip can applied to many other design professions such as Graphic, Interiors even Fashion etc. Why not try it and let me know if it works for you? All the best to your design concept success!

Sketch Techniques with Michael DiTullo

Michael DiTullo, Design Director at Converse, sent me a quick note about Core77’s new Show and Tell series that features his sketching techniques in a nice 4 easy minutes.

Now you don’t have to draw like this “Form Monster” (Heh-heh!), but have a good look at his techniques of shading, line weights, market use and hatching that can give any sketch a lot of punch and definition.

Michael sketches a sneaker.

Michael sketches an i-Something

Flawless technique as usual Michael and great stuff!

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