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Why do designers strive to be different and should they? Challenging the archetype.

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Depesh Patel

on 6 December 2013

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Transcript of Why do designers strive to be different and should they? Challenging the archetype.

We live in a society that promotes consumer excessive design.
Design is on the point of innovative stagnation and designers have a responsibility to question convention.
This presentation explores the influence
identity has on design and more specifically innovation in design. This study will examine
the way identities are created and the
influence this has on innovation.
Innovation is technically defined as the introduction of "something new". There is no yard stick with which to measure how ground breaking or revolutionary an innovation may be but only that it needs to be better than it was previously.
We innovate everyday,
basically, through constant
introspection and
improvement on our
personal lives. Cultivating
identities and personalities
based on past experiences,
we develop our own opinions
and principles informing our
own ideas of life. Creative
people and revolutionaries
use these preconceived
notions to drive their ethos in
their practice and identity.

The question
therefore is why do
designers strive to be
different? And should
they choose to be different,
how does this impact
innovation in design?
"Every designers' dirty little secret is that they copy other designers' work. They see work they like, and they imitate it. Rather cheekily, they call this inspiration"
-Aaron Russell
The aim of this study is to explore the characteristics of innovation in design. Exploiting the archetype of design and exploring the idea of being different withing design will be the crux. As a designer and consumer, the stereotypes of design are important to research its significance in shaping the way we live and explore our environments.

Defining disruptive innovation and how design continues to surprise and impress will inform the two archetypes of being different, different through challenge and different through desire to be different
Design practice will be studied and dnalysed to determine whether there is underlying methodology and philosophy that creates a culture of progressive innovation.
Design Council has studied the process of design in eleven companies, finding similarities and shared approaches amongst designers
The double diamond was created by Design Council through research of the deisgn process as a simple way graphically describing the stages designers take to realise a project.
As a consumer and a designer, the role of design in dictating our every day decisions is heavily dependent on experiences and interaction. The influences designers bring to their respective practices will be explored.
Culture can have a huge impact on our experiences and perceptions and examining where individuality and experience play a part in moulding human paradigms will be important in breaking down the identities people cultivate.
There are clear social norms and accepted truths and behaviour that form the culture in design and there are also opportunities for these conventions to be broken in order to move forward, i.e. innovate.
The idea that design is moving into creative oblivion, that someone somewhere is
thinking and developing the same pathways and solutions to the same every day
problems is not as far fetched as assumed. Is there real life innovation or is design
all a play on accepted themes.
Design thinking has a substantial stake in
innovating our environments but whether or not there is such a thing as true
originality anymore is up for debate. Has design become obsolete and are we
moving towards a unity of thought and opinion, a creative democracy. This will
help develop an understanding of how design aims to innovate moving forward.
Findings and gatherings will determine whether there is space in this world for
design to continue to be expressive and experimental. How do we decide what is
truly right and wrong in design and how do we continue to create innovative
solutions to everyday living
Is design providing truly disruptive breakthroughs in
the human experience and do we as designers relish problems or avoid problems
enough to question the archetype of design?
Design has always been about the user. Being able to deliver successfully is
about pleasing or meeting a need or addressing an issue.
However, sometimes
design can question the very core principles on which we live and interact. Design
has a responsibility in questioning convention and innovating our everyday lives.
This innovation can only be achieved through studying human behavior and
interaction. These ideas are important in informing my own design practice and
process. By understanding how designers create their own personal identity it will
help me further my own creative endeavors.
"When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is
just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to
have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.  That’s a very limited life. Life
can be much broader. Once you discover one simple fact, and that is - everything
around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than
you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things
that other people can use.  Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
- Steve Jobs, CEO Apple Inc. (Nale, 2012).
Artists and creatives are constantly looking for a way to distinguish themselves and
be different by creating a brand or self-concept. Whether an artist, designer or
engineer, this self-concept and personal identity is important in controlling and
expressing individual direction.
This concept is shaped through gentle assembly
and dis-assembly multiple times before it reaches maturity and realisation.
Constantly striving to be different and new creates an outlet in which to express
ideas and concepts.
This identity is shaped meticulously through understanding of
the paradigms and personal influences that make us who we are.
“The most innovative designers consciously reject the
standard option box and cultivate an appetite for thinking
- Marty Neumeirer
Philippe Starck is a stark example of an individual who is most notably known for
his bold re-workings of everyday objects. In rethinking the quotidian, Starck has
designed some of the most iconic forms and objects of the 20th century, including
the Juicy Salif for Alessi, the redesigned Emeco aluminium chair and the Louis
Ghost polycarbonate chair. His designs are controversial in that they can be
functional or purely aesthetic in quality. The juicy Salif is a prime example of an
object that was designed to stand out but functionally did not perform its intended
function. Starck is even rumoured to have described his Squeezer as not a lemon
squeezer but a conversation starter. It was purely about creating a different
experience through an object.
James Dyson, founder of the Dyson company who revolutionised the Vacuum
cleaner industry with the introduction of a cyclonic separation system and later the
ball system he used in his early Ballbarrow. As an engineer, it is innovation
through constantly making working models and playing with working mechanics
that distinguishes Dyson from its competitors in the industry.
By breaking down the development of a designer and enquiring into the practice,
subjectivity and identity of design in a shifting ideological and political space, you
can begin to understand where design has its stake in shaping our environments
and the world around us.
It is our physical interactions through the senses that regulate our experiences.
Identities are shaped through these experiences through exposure to various
influencing factors and probes.
“Things which are different in order to be different are seldom better, but that
which is made to be better is almost always different.” —Dieter Rams
Innovation used to happen by accident and it was these accidents that companies
would herald as the next big thing and make money.
The problem is, in the world
we live in, we tried to control innovation and formulate an exact science and we
have failed.
We live in a risk averse society that demands results with no patience.
Designers can become a part of the same system that is causing innovation to
become stagnant by adopting the same practice of linear design thinking and
It is a combination of Nussbaum and Stacks ideas of social and
independent awareness that will largely benefit innovation
Design has changed
and it is the formulation of ones identity that will define the next step in innovation.
Design will always be mix of function and form but true innovation will stem from
studying human interaction and behavior more deeply.
Management consultant Chris Barez brown in an article for The Huffington Post describes how in order for innovation to be successful it ‘…needs to be fun and
Innovation needs to create a buzz of possibility and has to be derived from a desire to solve every day problems. In order to remain progressive and
expressive design thinking itself has to remain innovative.
By following the lead of
companies like IDEO and Apple designers can continue to be expressive and
Designers must continue to question every day living and the ideals of design
practice through developing new skills and techniques.
Like the Truman show, if we
accept that we don’t have to believe in the reality with which we are presented,
then we can continue to innovate and change the world around us for the better. Identity in design will continue to push innovation as innovation will always look to design for growth. It is where individual designers who seek to disrupt and break convention by creating chaos through enforcing their own ideology that design will continue to flourish.
Culture, Politics, Geography, personal experience
and ethics play a large part in developing individual philosophies of personal
“Vision trumps all the senses. Half the brain’s resources are
dedicated to seeing and interpreting what we see. What our eyes physically perceive is only one part of the story. The images coming into or brains are changed and interpreted. It’s really our brains that are “Seeing.”
- Susan Weinschenk,
We are human beings and in being human we are rational. Our decisions, our
principles, our choices are all governed by a central core belief that we either
want something or we do not.
However, as experience in life tells us, all is not as it
seems. Weinschenk points out that although ‘half the brains resources are
dedicated to seeing and interpreting what we see’ (Weinschenk, 2011) these
images are changed in our brain. Therefore we need to consider our own realities
and ideas of realities.
“All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or
second creation to all things” Stephen covey talks about everything being created
first in our minds and then in reality. This is principally design, an idea or concept,
which is then conveyed or translated through an interface with physical stimuli."
- Stephen Covey
Similar to Coveys ideas of first and secondary creation in the mind Art in
Education uses the example of the movie Truman show to
highlight the fact that “we believe in the reality with which we are presented”,
subsequently raising the question as to how identities are formed. The film
illustrates how we live our lives according to pattern of behavior and habit,
however any disruption in this routine brings us back to reality.
The Truman Show, 1998
When presented
with a second reality or creation our paradigms shift and new outcomes and
solutions become evident. This is what designers attempt to achieve every day by
disrupting and questioning existing solutions and design outcomes. We innovate,
we alter reality, question behavior and we continue to question those realities and
accepted norms and concepts.
Arne Dietrich, Professor of Psychology at the American University of Beirut in his
paper on The Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity (2004) identifies four types of
creativity with corresponding brain activities as shown above in figure. Creativity
can be either emotionally or cognitively based and it can be spontaneously or
deliberately founded. Creativity flourishes in many environments but identity in
design is subject to various factors that establish themselves in the make up of a
designer through experiences such as background, education, upbringing and
personal/social experience.
However research itself is an educated process of building a knowledge base behind a subject. ‘Starbucks send their designers to work as baristas in their stores for up to a month to fully immerse them in coffee’ (Design Council, 2013), Xerox send designers out with service engineers when they visit customer sites to
observe customers interacting with the product while in use and Microsoft live streams
user research focus groups and sessions to all of its global location.
This educates designers to the world in which they are designing. All designers prescribe to an education of some sort. Be it a formal education, an internship or self taught skill development, some knowledge base of how to design is
established through imitation or replication of existing practice.
Design is heavily based on research, a key activity that informs all areas of a
Dennis Atkinson, Department of Educational Studies at Goldsmiths College, London describes in Art in Education: Identity and Practice, his experience as a teacher by stating that ‘the consequence of his approach to teaching observational drawing or painting practices was that in expecting students to be able to produce a particular representational form,’ ‘ he could be accused of ‘assuming that all students had the same perceptual experience,’ (Atkinson, 2002 pg1) quickly realising and understanding that the students he was teaching, mainly Indian and Pakistani, responded to his teaching differently to Western students to whom his training allowed him to respond.
Every student is not the same and do not respond to teachings in the same way
leading to a misinterpretation between teachers and students and lack of
understanding of personal practice.
This is evident in dialogue experienced every
day between students and teachers internationally in attempting to express
themselves and to be understood.
Atkinson describes how these students were generally unsuccessful in GCEArt
examination and were not even considered for examination entry and that the consequence for many was that their art practices were unrecognized by the
examination system.
Education plays a large part in helping people conceive their particular identity.
Subsequently, this informed the individual approach to creativity in being “different” as ‘their identity was acknowledged through a
curious pedagogic voyeurism, and another in which their ability as art practitioners
was unacknowledged and often pathologised. Atkinson explored the examination and assessment practices in which ability in art practice is classified and identified that natural abilities are paramount. He understood that the identity or differences in students practices were not based on ‘formal qualities; rather, it is to do with the representational or expressive logics, the semiotics of art practice, which underpin these formal structures'.
Education provides a formal structure for aspiring designers, where they are expected to meet certain criteria in order to create a foundation of skills and understanding. These skills are scrutinised under curriculums that are established to understand students and their development. However Students who choose to study under a school of thought and design are often faced with the difficulties in interpreting personal and professional practice as creativity evokes different response from teachers and peers. ‘National Curriculum for Art is concerned with establishing a particular discourse of levels of attainment and achievement in which specific standards are articulated according to certain norms of practice and understanding’.
‘One consequence of this kind of curriculum is that it creates a form of inclusion and exclusion that generates a specific politics of ability,
representation and identity. This can be contrasted with a curriculum which
foregrounds the ontological orientation of student’s experiences in their search for expressive form.’
So coming through a design education it is clear that creativity and expression
are measured against predetermined criteria that may or may not express, relate
or echo an individual’s identity and working practice. That begs the question, is
education essential to becoming a designer and is it the only avenue in which to
express your self and create identity.
Some of the most noted designers of our age have prescribed to a formal art
education on their way to becoming successful.
Jonathan Ive, studied design and
art at Northumbria University, an education which he describes has made him
aware of an ‘incredible tradition in the UK of designing and making’ (Telegraph,
2012). Charles Eames is known for not having completed a formal education and
took a more direct route into becoming an architect and designer. His exposure to
works by Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe and others such as Architect Saarinen
gave Eames the impetus to set up practice in 1930.
Marc Newson, vocally grateful
for receiving his education in Australia rather than more prestigious location such
as Italy, under design minds such as Ettore Sottsass or Mario Bellini by claiming
‘Coming from Australia and studying jewellery and sculpture, my design was self taught and instinctive.’
There is no definitive answer to the importance of an Art and design education in
creating an identity but by monitoring the progression of a designer into the
industry, you can observe example of educations influence in design innovation.
“You are not your job, you're not how much money you have in the bank. You
are not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Character and integrity are two things that cannot be forced upon you; rather
you develop them through observing your own kaleidoscope of life. In building
your own identity you hold on preciously to your integrity and carve your character out of the many teachings and experiences in life.
Designers come from many walks of life and derive their principles and ethics out of choice and ideas of
living in a better world. These ideas have different connotations and provide different outcomes to everyday problems scrutinized by designers. The moment when designers question the norm and provide something different or new is when innovation takes places.
In 2002 Alfredo Moser, a Brazilian mechanic came up with a way of illuminating
his house during the day without electricity. Using nothing more than plastic bottles
filled with water and a tiny bit of bleach, Moser would push the bottles through
holes he would drill through roof tiles. The lights use simple refraction of sunlight to
illuminate. Moser has become known worldwide for his engineering of a simple
bottle light and states his inspiration came during the countries frequent electricity
blackouts in 2002.
It is a designer’s ability to find subjection in current contexts
whether cultural or historical that defines a chosen identity. To respond to current issues and personal experiences is at the core of every designers search for personal subjection.
Karl Marx ideology on economic base and superstructure (Marx, 1932) and how
the dominant ideology is integral is key to understanding how designers create
identity within a context of practice. Marx theory is that reality creates and molds
the mind through ideas and perceptions created as a result of material social,
economical and historical conditions.
According to Marx our positions, mainly in society, be it religious, moral or political etc. are dictated by our material circumstances.
French philosopher Louis Althusser in his works on Lacunar Discourse moves away from the Marxist understanding of ideology and the economic base and superstructure and identifies the notion of interpellation and describes how people position themselves in relation to each other respectively as, the ‘subject supposed to know’ and the ‘subject seek to know’.
Having established subjectivity based on personal ambition and drive, separating ones self from context and practice, designers choose areas of design that they think they might be able to innovate and create success.
However without having
established a well informed manifesto and drive for personal practice, designers
rarely make a substantial claim in achieving what they set out to do. By observing
the ideas and principles that current designers build their identity on, you can
begin to understand how they inform identity and individual practice.
Apple Inc manifesto
Students on the BA Design course at Leeds Met are encouraged to constantly
revise their own personal positional within design, i.e. define who they are and
what context they place themselves in design.
When asked where
students would place themselves in design, the responses were vague at most.
Most students would choose an area of design that interested them and go on to
elaborate on aspects of design that appeal to their personal practice.
Most students did not want to or did not have the conviction to choose where they were going next with their own practice. Others highlighted significant parts of their past education or experience in design that have played a large part in getting them to
where they are today. It is this process of situating ones self in relation to an
ideology that precedes any other decision in becoming a designer.
The definition of design continues to be contested. Victor Papanek in Design for
the Real World, seeks an open definition for design as:
‘All men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is
basic to all human activity. The planning and pattern of any act toward a desired,
foreseeable end constitutes the design process. Any attempt to separate design to
make it a thing by itself, works counter to the fact that design is the primary
underlying matrix of life.’ - Victor Papanek
Furthermore, Guy Julier, in The Culture of Design describes Papanek as taking
an ‘agitational standpoint’ with regards to design being separate or different.
Papanek attempts to ‘denude’ design of any separateness.
On the contrary, design history provides a vast lineage of individuals and groups who have prided themselves on being different and creating new definitions for design within various contexts. The definition of design will continue to be revised, however the practice of design can be analysed through the identities designers derive through their individual practices.
Humans are a product of the environments and the paradigms that shape the
world around us.
In Another Modernity of Different Rationality (Lash, 1999), Scott
Lash, professor of sociology and cultural studies at Goldsmiths, University of
London describes two rationalities. He describes notions of ‘difference’ and
‘reflexitivity’ of postmodern certainties. Lash talks about firstly, the high modernity of
enlightenment and secondly the modernity of post-enlightenment which form rational,
i.e. you may take something for face value from an experience but a
second or third experience may enlighten you to another paradigm.
The question arises as to how do designers create themselves as different?
Is every designer another ‘Truman’ caught in a paradigm, waiting for that moment
when they know they can leave there contextual harbor or is it true that ‘we
become what we are through…the various positions society allocates us’
(Atkinson, 2002) and construct identities between specific contexts of social
And why attempt to be different, are designers ‘standing on the shoulders
of giants’ or is design essentially about pushing the boundaries of the human
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, always do what you are afraid to do and
as designers it is the ability to question convention and discover different contexts
that sets individuals and corporations apart. By breaking down culture in creative
industries, the various identities and figures that have become synonymous to design can exemplify the impact being different as a designer can have on
shaping the world around us.
“Few practices of intellectual and commercial human activity reach into so many
areas of everyday private and public life. Few professions in the industrialised
world have grown in terms of economic presence and cultural import as much as
design has in the past two decades.”
- Guy Julier
Culture in design can be defined by understanding what connotations design
denotes in various contexts. Design itself is both the make up of a concept or idea
and the processes by which an idea is conceived, i.e. research, drawing, planning
and manufacture. Design becomes both a verb and a noun. By understanding of
the semiotics of professional design practice, we can begin to understand how
culture embeds itself in design and how it influences design consequently
contributing to the identity of design.
Duschamp Fountain
Culture in design can be broken down and explored through examining various
different probes. These probes create different identities in various contexts. By
exploring the semiotics of culture in design, identity can be broken down and
analysed to determine what it is that makes an individual different.
In an interview (BBC Radio 1, 2013), American Hip Hop artist Kanye West
identifies himself as an artist, and in being an artist, makes the point that his
creativity should be natural and that there is no external influence apart from that
which he chooses to accept. He will not change his working practice and states
that he will be loved or hated; it does not matter to him. He holds himself as a
pioneer and an innovator that is not restricted by ideas of society and social
structure as highlighted by Karl Marx. He wants to create his own subject in any
chosen context and feels like he is fighting socially accepted norms and
conventions. He makes claims to be part of a movement of creatives that only
serve to improve our current civilization by ‘adding something to the culture’, a
concept that transfers across all areas of design.
Everyone has an ideal with which they perceive the future. Some base it on
personal belief of preserving tradition and heritage. Some acquire tradition and heritage through national identity or background. These ideals are evident in design practice and philosophy adopted by designers.
In an interview with Apple’s senior vice president of design,
Sir Jonathan Ive describes how all he ever wanted to do was ‘design and make’.
In response to receiving his knighthood for services to design and enterprise Ive
points out he is “aware of an incredible tradition in the UK of designing and
making…” Ive points out that Britain was the first to industrialise and that this
tradition is key to his identity and working practice and ‘lies behind his success’.
He also states that a significant influence on his decision to pursue design was his
father, a teacher who was a very good craftsman, a tradition that is representative
of the British Industrial Revolution. This national tradition derived from Britain’s vast
history is important to his practice and has embedded itself in Apples various
products and practices.
Vitra Eames Chair
Designers such as Saarinen and Eames derived their identity from the industrial
revolution in America, which was a response to the great depression in the 1920’s.
The great depression forced manufacturers to find innovative production
processes such as stamping and use of molds to produce products. This led to the
use of new materials such as Vinyl, Chrome, Aluminum and Plywood. American
design denotes the rise and fall of these industrial processes as history sees
designers such as Norman Bel Geddes, Raymond Loewy who explored the ideas
of streamlined living and ‘building the world of tomorrow’, a physical future that
could improve our way of living, exactly what all design brands claim to do today.
Toyota motor company takes its name from a number of different origins.
Starting from its beginnings as Toyoda automatic loom works, the move to
Toyota Motor Corporation in 1933 brought about the name Toyota. Toyoda, in English and its Kanji version were used at the beginning but as the company exported into the US it wanted to create an emblem that would work in
Japanese and English as shown in figure 10 (BBC NEWS, 2010). The name was chosen because of the number of strokes that made up the name in Japanese as shown in figure 8, which is thought to bring luck and prosperity to the
Raymond Loewy’s Coca-Cola bottle is a stark example of the industrial design movement in America, which imbued personality into all our belongings, which had a huge ripple effect on advertising and branding internationally. The Coca-Cola bottle, though iconic and basically still intact in design, bought about the culture of designing options around the same basic product and remains a lasting figure in Americas design heritage.

Tradition and heritage play a large part it in more than creating an individuals identity but can form the foundation for whole companies and industries.
For years Companies relied on a Logo and subsequently the brands formed
underneath the company logo were considered the way a company portrayed
Branding is heavily governed by the target audience and the foundation
created by designers for a particular product or service. Graphic design Jacob
Cass claims, ‘A designer forms the foundation of the brand’ and the target audience determines how a brand is shaped and becomes a corporate image.
Identity is a major part of a company’s corporate image. This corporate image is portrayed and designed into various tools or devices such as the logo, stationery, flyers, brochures, books, websites, apparel, signage, message and actions etc. Basically any physical experience becomes the recognisable
identity of a product or service.
Logos ‘derive their meaning from the quality of the
thing it symbolises, not the other way around – logos are there to identity, not to
explain. In a nutshell, what a logo means is more important than what it looks
like.’ (Just Creative, 2010) The Logo identifies a product or service in the simplest
form, informing identity using the use of ‘mark or icon’.
“Design became identity, identity became branding, branding became living it.”
(Dowdy, 2003)
Since the mid 1980s and mid 1990s design has had to adapt to globalisation.
Through changes in the market and changes in regulation companies were forced
to expand their image as purely product driven to providing services in order to
move forward competitively. Further with the information age, Branding had
become essential in distinguishing identity.
‘With so many players after consumers’ money, companies increasingly needed to
differentiate their offers. But as products and services came to resemble each other
more and more closely in terms of quality and cost, this became difficult. It was
then that people began to realize that their brand and its values were one of the
few noticeable differentiators.’
Peter Knapp, Landor
In design schools, identity is all about leaving your mark. All designers leave a
mark/name or icon, which behold the products image or identity. Whether a
signature on an oil painting or a logo on a new phone, these visual emblems
become the identity of the product or service. Disney, Nokia, Gillette, Nike, Ikea etc. all have strong brands that are associated with what they provide as a
product or service.
By exploring the manifestation of a brand and the values it holds within an industry or context, the identity of each brand becomes clear, subsequently allowing brand values in design practices to be analysed. History is littered with companies that branded themselves under various corporate identities.
Brand Logos – New Definitions of Corporate Identity author Clare Dowdy says that ‘as
one of the last design disciplines to get on the branding bandwagon, product
design is catching up fast. No longer are product designers expected to develop
something that’s merely functional or aesthetic It’s got to exude a string of brand
values too.’
From its humble beginning in Seattle, Washington, Starbucks originally starting
with selling espresso to fine restaurants and espresso bars. One visit to Italy by
Howard Schultz revealed the potential to develop a similar coffeehouse culture in
Seattle. From there, a number of influences could contribute towards the success of
Starbucks and corresponding coffeehouses. You can look towards the
entertainment industry and its cultural influences internationally.
Friends cast in Central Perk Coffee House
Philip Nolan of the Daily Mail claims the spread of the coffee house culture in
Ireland is largely accredited to American TV shows Friends and Frasier, saying,
“We saw it reflected in the lifestyles of our TV favorites the Friends gang in CentralPark drinking coffee instead of alcohol; Frasier and Niles having latte and biscottiin the Café…”
This Culture has become synonymous to
Coffeehouses and the Starbucks brand. This culture had nothing to do with coffee
but the lifestyle associated with drinking coffee. Coffee becoming the tool and the
associated lifestyle becoming the companies’ brand.
On Starbucks website, its
heritage claims to be about creating ‘A place for conversation and a sense of
community. A third place between work and home’. Most recently Starbucks have
begun to write names on customer coffee cups in order to provide a more
personal service, a scheme to extend the image and brand of Starbucks.
Like Starbucks, many other companies have created different brands in attempt
to expand the life of their products and express themselves competitively.
In March 2002 Toyota launched a car brand aimed at young buyers to sit
alongside the Toyota and Lexus brands. The name Scion developed by San
Francisco naming company, Lexicon, who worked in conjunction with the car
manufacturer. The physical brand was designed by a LA consultancy
Fresh*Machine. The brand was to consist of a logo which would have to work as
a badge for the vehicles and also the website, kiosks etc. Rather than promote the
car through conventional means i.e. national advertising, Toyota adopted an
under the radar approach to appropriate this brand to the younger target
audience. The website was more than just a promotion space for the new brand
but promoted the experience Toyota wanted to cultivate through this ‘rebrand’. As
well as photos and videos of the car the website consisted of music downloads,
lifestyle articles ad opinion polls. Toyota being the brand, Scion the identity and
the Scion badge becoming the logo forming the overall identity.
Nike introduced the Nike FuelBand through several commercials via film
producer Casey Neistat. This promotional video shows Casey travelling the world
in 10 days trying to show people how to ‘makeitcount’. The film portrays fast
moving and flash images of this 10-day journey around the world with quotes such
as ‘Life is either daring adventure or nothing at all’ and ‘above all, try something’.
Casey Neistat in a follow up video admits in the first video he is not wearing the
Nike FuelBand. Similar to Toyota’s Scion campaign, the FuelBand was promoted
through Neistat in order to reach a specific demographic associated with the
lifestyle he portrays in the film, subsequently attracting 8 million people on
YouTube. This has become the identity of the FuelBand, a simple wrist band/watch
that monitors calorie burn throughout the day. Its promotion as a simple but robust
device that sits on your wrist as an information point for people who want to be
more active through monitoring information such as time and calorie burn in
everyday settings is enough to make it a competitive product. However,
advertising via Neistat, placed the FuelBand in the context of experiential desire,
the desire to be as active and energetic through the use of the FuelBand. The
advertising of a lifestyle the identity in the design of the FuelBand.
Dyson’s series of vacuum cleaners have become a dominant force in the premium
vacuum market. Dyson's elucidative approach to design is apparent in their
working practice as James Dyson states, he ‘very rarely talks about form because’
he thinks ‘performance is much more important’ .
Dyson vacuums are unrefined bulgy and the cyclonic head and yellow ball, yet dominate
mechanical in design and appearance. The Dyson derives from the Ballbarrow, which was designed to enable easy maneuvering with difficult angles in response
to the conventional wheelbarrow. The product ‘s design in this case being the
embodiment of Dyson’s image and identity as a company. Dyson try to maintain
this throughout all there creative projects.
Corporations strive to present themselves in the simplest way possible to be ‘clear
and comprehensible’. They aim to make clear the different parts in order to allow
people to navigate the various ‘divisions, companies and brands’ (Olins, 1989).
They encompass the ethos and working practice into a symbol that allows
employees to share the same spirit and spread this throughout the organization.
But most importantly an organization wants to differentiate itself and its product or
services from competitors in the marketplace.
The three stages of understanding
corporate identity can be summed up as ‘coherence, symbolism and positioning’
and are key to understanding how designers and consultancies establish
themselves innovatively. You can observe basic indicators of the semiotics of a
companies’ rebrand or innovation to understand where it derives its identity
Apple’s first logo was Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. Subsequently
followed by the coloured stripe logo, which could be representative of the next
step in Apples Personal Computer innovation in making the interface more user
friendly by incorporating colour in the graphics. The logo has then changed to a
simpler visual in 1998, which could have been in light of the input of British
designer Jonathan Ive, and his simplistic approach to housing the Apple Macintosh
in one unit.
These ideas are all up for debate but the fact remains that apple has
become synonymous to innovation and forward thinking. Steve Jobs saw the
customer potential for designing a PC that was more user friendly and not driven
by technology but the lifestyle associated with owning a PC. He was more
interested in the personalization of the individual product than the technology surrounding it. This has become synonymous to Apple in every product it release.
The experience is more important than the design, the interaction and dialogue
created between product and person the forefront of their innovations.
IBM on the other hand considered the electronic and mechanical advancement
the core of what advanced electronics should look like. IBM employed consultant
director of design, Eliot Noyes, refined and wanted to standardize the goals and
overall program of IBM. He did this in order to establish a central them from which
designers could work. IBM decided it did not want to be restricted to a theme that
would hinder the companies growth but adopted an ‘attitude’. This attitude was to
allow IBM to run progressively with the progressive arts. IBM ‘sought similarity of
character, not conformity of an prescribed pattern.’ (Rosen, 1970) Some may say
that this need to establish itself creatively to progress was a means to remain
competitive against companies like Apple who had created a whole new market
for personal computers.
You can monitor the contest between PC companies and Apple remains the most
celebrated innovator. Success of both companies can be monitored through
financial profit, however successful design is an issue discussed and debated
openly amongst customers and design minds. Whether one company has got the
formula right is not important but pushing innovation in industry is what will
separate the two.
Innovations of the past such as the toilet, refrigeration etc. solved huge problems
and were considered monumental innovations and are accepted as the ideal.
However, in a fast paced digital age that has created a free market, information
sharing is made it possible for minds to come together, for culture to merge and
innovation to flourish.
Technological advancements such as the PC and Internet
have bought us innovations that have changed the way we live and do business. If
you just look at how easy our lives have become, especially through business with
E-Mail and online banking for example, you can see how big these innovations
are in enhancing every day life.
However the main innovations over the last few decades have been in IT, Internet and Mobile where other large industries have
seen stagnation. If you look at the Motor industry or the aircraft industry for
example, we’re basically still driving the same cars. There has been progress in
safety, comfort and fuel consumption but this seems to be small development.
What seems to be lacking is any real innovation. There is more product
development but nothing really disruptive enough to be seen as new or innovative.
Ford Model T
Nicolas Cugnot's three-wheeled steam driven vehicle
Ford Mustang 2014
“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.” Benjamin Franklin
Variable Balans Chair, Peter Opsvik, 1976
Peter Opsvik has been rethinking the way people sit since the early 1970s,
challenging every assumption of chair design. With a variation of the word balance, he designed the natural urge to keep moving when seated into his ergonomic chair. Some may argue the aesthetics and functionality of the chair are not for everyone but its design addresses the fundamentals of innovating. He has
questioned the whole concept of sitting through one simple design.
In an interview with Design Week designer Philippe Starck describes how he
believes after all these years everything he has designed ‘is absolutely
unnecessary,’ and ‘design, structurally seen, is absolutely void of usefulness’.
Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design Bruce
Nussbaum describes in response to Starcks statement how ‘design is wonderfully alive and well and evolving fast…democratisation of design, the open source of
design is driving much of the field’
So who is wright and who is
Nussbaum argues that it is the absorption of design thinking into a ‘linear, gated,
by-the-book methodology’ that is killing innovation. In conversation
with IDEOs Tim Brown it became clear that consultancies that promoted design
thinking were hoping that a process would produce innovation, i.e. packaging
creativity. However it is creativity and the environment surrounding creativity, the
mess, the conflict, the failure, the emotions and the circular process of design
which fuels real innovation.
Tim Brown in Change By Design-IDEO talks about how the techniques and
strategies of design belong at every level of a business and how having a humancentered
approach to problems solving is the way to be more innovative and
creative. IDEO best describes design as being a system of ‘overlapping spaces’ . In Harvard business Review 2008, Tim brown
outlines ‘a design thinker’s personality profile’. Brown states that a designer can
empathise with people in order to design around desire, can implement integrative
thinking when discovering solutions beyond the existing and alternative. Brown
encourages designers to have optimism no matter how challenging the constraints
of a given problem, to experiment by posing questions and exploring creative
ways to proceed in entirely new directions and finally to collaborate, with other
designers but also marketers, engineers, anthropologists, psychologists and
industrial designers all employed within IDEO.
Products that were not original in their respective markets but have become
synonymous to the industries they occupy surround us. An IPod was not the first
mp3 player but it was the first to be delightful, the Dyson, not the first vacuum, but
held above all others in domestic vacuuming. These innovations were disruptive in
their own rights enough to make them iconic, but it is the design philosophies that
drove their creation that separates them from their competitors. Dyson prides itself
on experimenting and playing constantly with mechanics and it is a big part of
their innovation, IDEO make it a point to study human behavior to further innovation and Apple aim to simplify the objects we use to the point where there is
no space to innovate.
As consumers we are surrounded by objects that we know can be improved and innovated, however do we question the consumer excessive world we live in to really question design. Starck has famously come out and said that he was a ‘producer of materiality’ and is ‘ashamed of this fact’ . When asked if Starck would stop designing and switching job he said ‘I do want to, for sure’ and that he now wants to be a ‘producer of
concepts.’ He said the ‘designer of the future will be the personal coach, the fitness trainer, the nutritionist.’ He wants people to ‘develop ones own ethics and stick to these rules’ .

Nussbaum responded to this by claiming that
the ‘meta-trend to all of this is identity…the next big thing after experience and emotion…’ and that ‘we are increasingly intent on designing our own identities with others in social networks’. He claims that ‘people used to allow big institutions to identify them, to frame them’ but no ‘they want to engage with those institutions or create new ones’. This means the lines between user and designer are becoming
more blurred, redefining the word designer. This is when truly disruptive innovation will occur
By Depesh Patel
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