Mark graciously lent me & Fork, a beautiful Phaidon book of 100 contemporary product designers (London: Phaidon Press, 2007). In the preface, Emilia Terragni states:
“It might be said that technology is responsible for opening up the world, allowing easier access to knowledge and communication, and…it becomes apparent that contemporary product design reflects a world that is coming together as a whole, a world that is more conscious of its many parts than ever before.”
And of course, this is the ideal vision. But does it get translated to people’s use of the everyday object? Is the “connectedness” of the work coming through in the use of the designs once they leave the studio or is it only in the approach to the designs from a theoretical framework such as ours? I want so badly to agree with her, but then she follows: “The current generation may have grown up with computer technology present in all aspects of life, but we are also fascinated and inspired by the beauty of nature. For example, contemporary designers can be seen using the most sophisticated technologies to precisely reproduce floral patterns and natural structures in their work.” The problem here, of course, is that most often, the designers have not really seen these patterns and structures in real life. These reproductions come from data sourced from the internet plugged into a program and therefore the reproduction doesn’t at all speak to the experience of the thing itself. The experience of the thing is absent in the reproduction. It loses its sensory quality and also its emotional quality that do truly connect us and it makes the experience more of an intake of information than an act of perception. She ends by saying how connected young designers are to each other and each other’s work, that their environments are never isolated, and this is wonderful and very true, but is missing something. Is it possible to have this connectedness to others and produce work that is not just “information”? Or must we accept that this is the new meaning of “experience”?: that it may be connected to other people yet at the same time removed from the world of place. Does a literal, isolated environment actually condemn one to work in isolation? I think not.
Here are the beginnings of a chair…the very, very beginnings…