Polar Opposites | IDEA 08′ design awards…

I’m on my way back home to the Patagonia (love saying that) reflecting on my experiences this past week at the annual IDSA conference. As usual, many of the leading designers, agencies and corporations were at hand to receive their IDEA awards and to collectively pat each other on the back. There was a lot of talk about the bad state of the economy but yet there was still an excessive amount of design recruiters competing to secure their share of the fresh new talent pool. This years theme was the “Polar Opposites” contrasted within the design space such as technology, innovation, experience, China, India, the user and speaking of users, there was a ridiculous amount of I-Phones per capita at the event.

This year I stayed out of the limelight and was there with a very simple agenda, to absorb and evaluate the state of sustainable in the industrial design field and to take away new insights from the compelling talks on the diverse subjects that influence design from globalization to pocket lint. As expected, everything was “green” this and “sustainable” that but in general this subject is still a lot more talked about than walked. Yes, we are starting to replace many of the usual Poly-type plastics with at least a % of non-toxic post consumer or non-petrol materials but we must remain aware that this is not MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. It is a great start but Bill McDonough in 06 laid out much more ambitious challenges for us that we have yet to fully embrace.

Eco-design is still being segregated in a separate category by the IDSA instead of being incorporated as a pre-requisite for every nominee . Since good design should inherently be more sustainable, extreme luxury items or simply unnecessary cute must-have products cant qualify and that continues to be an obstacle for us ID’ers to fully embrace sustainable design.

The most innovative work seams to be coming from students and more independent designers especially when you consider the fact that these have far less resources to work with. We must also keep in mind that not all of the years best designs are considered, only the ones who invest in the art of submitting and the associated cost$ for each entry. With that said, here are Sustainable | Day’s comments on what stood out from the 2008 IDEA design award winners.

The best of the eco-category… The Balance Sport Wheelchair, Philips Wood Burning Stove, Treepac Shipping System, Eneloop Solar Cell Charger, and the 360 Paper Bottle. All great designs.

My personal favorite wasn’t in the eco-category… The Adiri Ultimate Baby Bottle. Beautiful and intuitive for the very important user, it is a far superior solution in addressing all the material and functionality issues with traditional bottles. The product is available in three version (0-3, 3-6, 6 and up) months, but the only difference between the three is color and the amount of pin holes in the tip to control the flow. Maybe we can buy just the 0-3 month version and then gradually make the extra holes in order to personalize for the little one…

The On the Fence Award goes to… The One Laptop Per Child Project. Great design exercise but as pointed out in a talk about India, there are many many other higher priorities for the target users of this product (kids in third world villages). Also, wouldn’t a corporate financed repurpose PC program be more appropriate. Time will tell with the OLPC but so far none of the intended countries are buying into this concept.

The greenwashed award goes to…. The LEAF Lamp. How can this be the best eco-lamp that ID’s poster boy can come up with. Yes it uses LED’s just like hundreds of other lamps and it can be recycled but who can afford to buy and then recycle a $500 eccentric desk lamp. Interesting form, but an eco-design finalist?

In general Frank TIneski the new director and the rest of the IDSA team and volunteers did a great job this year, Frank seams to have the right balance of prowess and approachability for the diverse personalities and age groups involved. The food was the best that I can remember from past events but next year the rumor is we are going to be eating cuban food in Miami (my home town). You can see the rest of the award winners here.


Design Science (fiction) | Shaping Things

I strongly recommend Shaping Things from The MIT Press where Bruce Sterling takes us through a thought provoking journey from “artifact” to “biot” making us realize that we are no longer consumers but “end-users” living in a “gizmo” society and that our “gizmos” are “highly unstable, user-alterable, baroquely multi-featured objects, commonly programmable, with a brief life-span”.

If you want to gain insight about a designers role in a techonosociety and how networked technologies like RFID’s are going to influence the way we think of design, you must read this book.

I first came across author Bruce Sterling at the 1999 IDSA conference in Chicago where he got up on the podium and introduced himself as a futurist and began speaking in a Bucky Fuller style techno-design language. At that moment, I thought that had to be the coolest job in existence… until I figured out that it was just another name for a science fiction writer.

Either way Bruce is much more than that, he admits having zero design talent but understands the design process better than most design professionals, not only is he a respected design critic but also one of the most influential instigators of the bright green design movement. See Viridian Design.

Bruce suggest that design is the only discipline that consciously thinks of not only the objects but more importantly their technosocial relationships with the end-users which can take a heavy toll on an individuals cognitive load (dedicated brain RAM) and opportunity cost (time required to interact).

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Consumer electronics | Greenpeace

This guide to greener electronics is published by Greenpeace. The most recognized companies are rated according to three issues: eliminating hazardous substances, takeback programs and recycling their products responsibly once they become obsolete, and reducing the climate impacts of their operations and products. The chart has been updated regularly since August 2006 where Nokia and Dell were the leaders and today Sony seams to be leading the way.