A Celebration of Design Without Designers

Illustration for article titled A Celebration of Design Without Designers

The basic premise of TechnoCRAFT, a new San Francisco gallery exhibition, is that something's gone wrong in the history of people making things. These days, designers have all the power—and maybe it's time to put users in control.

Illustration for article titled A Celebration of Design Without Designers

The show is curated by renowned industrial designer Yves Béhar, whose work you unknowingly recognize from the OLPC and Jawbone headset. The selected works showcase products and methods that put the power of design back in the hands of the people that use them, rather than behind the closed doors of workshops. Good design should breed community, and emotional connection. Not disappointment and alienation.

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Illustration for article titled A Celebration of Design Without Designers

TechnoCRAFT highlights five thematic trends helping empower people as creators instead of consumers: crowdsourcing, a by now familiar concept of harvesting collective taste for a common project. "Platforms," the notion that open software can help users personalize an intimate bond with an object. "Blueprints," the concept of selling an idea for an object—rather than the object itself—which let's you enjoy the process of building. "Hacks," which are instances of breaking design rules by modifying an existing product. "Incompletes," encourage the finalization of an object based on a customer's own preferences. And finally, "modules," through wish users assemble an object greater than the sum of its parts.

Illustration for article titled A Celebration of Design Without Designers
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TechnoCRAFT's argument is that, when combined, these six concepts are indicative of "Design in the Age of Individuality." And, even putting the fascinating aesthetic and commercial factors aside, the show is simply great to look at. If you're in the San Francisco area between now and October 3rd, consider checking it out for yourself. [TechnoCRAFT]

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DISCUSSION

The purpose behind this is really interesting. As a designer in a very large industry, we wrestle with this concept constantly. Do you let the consumer decide or do the designers decide and tell the consumers what they want? Both are wrong but the answer lies somewhere in between.

It gets interesting in industries where the product's design process starts 7+ years before it hits the market. The designers have to be thinking about what the consumer will want 7 years from now. Think about the difference between cars from 2003 and 2010. Someone was coming up with features and styles of vehicles for cars coming out in 2 months from now, in the Fall of 2003.

That being said, this all feels like a lot of smoke and mirrors. I love this idea but feel like it's a little gimmicky. In my experience, consumers usually want more of what they have, something they have with a small twist, or two things combined together. These can produce some interesting designs but it usually ends up being something like a "bloaster" (blender+toaster).

I think this is cool but I don't like that it's pretending that consumers wouldn't still be instructed on what to like.