What Zaha Knows That You Don't
Limitation and Inspiration
For every project a designer embarks upon, there's a part of the process where the constraints are defined. It has to fit inside a car trunk, it can't be wireless, or the marketing team has found that fuchsia just won't work this season. Often these limitations can be frustrating, but a good designer can see it as an inspiration, not just something to work around.
Sometimes, design is about fixing old things; Updating products that fell behind the times, or addressing problems in rev 1 so rev 2 will work better. And sometimes, design is about explosions of creativity; Entirely new user paradigms dreamed up in a flaming burst of muse-driven box-leaving stratospheric glory. The first is easiest, done the most, and pays the most consistently. It is the bread and butter of the design consulting world. The second is tricky, inconsistently solvent at best, and the lucky claim of only a small portion of practicing designers. But, like so many things, there is a middle ground. Simple changes that produce a difference, subtle at first glance, which in reality, alter completely the effectiveness of a product. This is the black art of the Tweak.
Kick The Paycheck
Our roots are in products. No doubt about it. If manufacturers after world war two hadn't been stuck feeding saturated markets with the same old stuff, and needed a way to convince consumers to buy their products, industrial design as we know it wouldn't exist. Even now, as you're working on that latest sketch, or final model, there's a 99.99% chance that it's a model of something that will sit on a shelf in a Wal Mart, or a car lot, or your local grocery store's kitchen tools aisle. But just hammering out products day after day can make you forget that a major strength of design is pure people helping power. Maybe giving your paycheck the cold shoulder every once in a while will help you to remember it.
Insights In The Extremes
Disasters make great news. Consequently, we see, hear, and write a lot about them. Most recently, the tragic events of the London bombings have been buzzing around our brains. But before that, we were worried with climate change, tsunami threats, and escalating world terrorist activity. With such large-scale dilemmas, designing solutions can be incredibly complicated, if not impossible. When faced with these sorts of problems, there is a great technique that we borrowed from our days as an engineer (yeah, we're embarrassed too). Sometimes insight presents itself when you push a problem to its extremes.
Beat The Blahs With Dots
It happens to all of us: You're cooking along really well, and then you cross some threshold, and the blahs set in. Even we here at the Fuel Station get a case of the design blahs every once in a while. Part of being a successful designer is being able to shrug them off. So today, thanks to Steve Jobs, Dots, Death, Randomness, and Stanford's class of 2005, we've got a little dollop of de-blah balm to set you right.
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Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team