Monday, October 3, 2011

I'll be blogging for my design theory class this semester (which is by far my favorite class, I finally get a chance to work out all my beef with design) at my school blog. For lack of other content these days at onlyonemartha (i'm sorry! i've been feeling uninspired!) I will be featuring some of my writing for class on this site. 

on design: response from a theory debate

Often times, I hate design. I have been spending the past three years studying design: living, breathing, head-over-heels immersed in design world. At the end of the day, I still hate it. I cannot make my piece with design. Designers are wasteful, egotistical, and self indulgent. ‘I am going to create this product, put it out there in the world, adding to the never ending mass of stuff, just because I said so.’ It seems that so much of design is geared towards creating products to fill needs that were never there. Humans have lived happily for thousands of years with iPhones, they didn’t even know what they were missing. Then a man named Steve Jobs comes along and suddenly mass quantities cannot even dare think about living without their device. That iPhone has become essential. It creates the need for itself.

One of my main problems with design is that it often encourages and promotes a culture of excess. Product design in particular would not exist without consumer culture. Designers need people to keep buying things in order for there to be a market, or a reason to produce the next version. The cycle of product release, feedback, and redesign is inevitable. It’s what fuels necessary improvements. But what about all those version 1.0′s? They are now obsolete. Technology is the worst offender, of course. I know that personally, I have a graveyard of defunct cell phones and digital cameras. E-waste, a modern problem.

There are, of course, reasons not to hate design. Design can solve the problem of upgrades and replacement. It seems as though it should be obvious by now, considering the full life cycle of a product. As the system is right now there are no repercussions for creating a product that will break or be replaced within six months. That should change. A bill of product rights, or something along those lines. Whatever you buy should be guaranteed to function perfectly well, or not be out-shined by the newest version for at least a year after purchase. This is essentially a warranty, but what I would like to see the emphasis placed on is the acknowledgement that a new version will soon be released. I like the ‘services model’ that had been recently introduced: the idea that a user would simply rent a cell phone for a year or so, and then when it comes to for a replacement the company would automatically take the old one back to reuse the parts. There is no reason why a gently used computer housing cannot be refilled with shiny, speedier techno-guts. I would be happy to have a laptop that shows it’s age. Dings and scratches are the sign of frequent use and appreciation. Maybe if people knew that their returned and refilled laptop would be half the cost of a brand new version, they would be more likely to treat their possessions with care and consideration of their longevity.


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