Design Reason

What is design and what is the reason for design?

Unfortunately I have just found out that I’d never really thought in depth about these questions.

I had, of course, swiftly labelled myself as a designer. I had vague thoughts about what that constituted, but it is not something that you are questioned about generally.

I have also struggled over the last year to clearly define what I want to do as a “designer”. How I actually want to set myself up and work. I know that I don’t agree with the current system, but what other system do you use?

But I have started two online courses.

I discovered coursera.org and immediately signed myself up for two subjects.

The first one is Experimental Genome Science which I am already procrastinating from doing my homework for and am realising how much of my genetics classes I’ve forgotten.

The second started yesterday and is called Design: Artifacts in Society.

The first lectures in the design class – which were amusingly mostly about an icecream scoop – asked for the fundamental definitions of design.

For the course’s aim the definition of a designer is someone who finds gaps in society’s needs and creates an object or a system or a programme (which shall, for want of a better word, be named an artifact) in order to problem solve and close that gap.

It may not be creating an artifact from scratch, rather it may be improving an existing artifact to make it more ergonomically viable, cheaper to manufacture, more durable.

But, in the fashion industry, who is really a designer?

If we are changing our collections to fit modern trends then we are product developers.

If we are creating new patterns and shapes we may be artists.

What do we NEED from fashion?

What is the gap in society that can be filled by clothing?

The more I think about this the less I hope to be a “clothes designer”.

Yes, I want to recreate and adapt styles that I find beautiful, but I’m not sure that would really constitute design.

I think I am more interested in the how. How are we able to use the ability to make clothing into something that society can use positively.

Can we make carbon neutral and non slave labour clothing commercially viable?

Can we make waste into clothing without creating more waste?

Could we teach clothing manufacture and construction to provide independence and employment for others in poor areas that have low skill and education levels? To help women in suppressed or abused situations to regain control?

I think I would like to be a “system designer” when I grow up.

I just have a huge amount of problem solving left to do…

I have an unhealthy amount of love for Joseph Paxton who designed, amongst many other incredible things, this Crystal Palace for The Great Exhibition in London in 1850. The problems were price and size and speed at which this needed to be built over Hyde Park all of which he overcame beautifully. The structure is pictured here in Sydenham where is was moved after the Exhibition until 1936 when it was tragically destroyed in a fire.

The other image is of the Benjamin Franklin style glasses. Franklin was the first to create bifocal lenses due to his frustration at not being able to see his dinner plate and the guests around the table with the same pair of glasses.

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