Friday, May 21, 2010

The Story of Bottled Water

I always wondered why you can get a litre of petrol for just over $1 but when you’re buying a litre of bottled water, it would set you back around $5 or more. The scale of this is just mind boggling.. and along with that the amount of waste the bottled water industry produces could probably be the major cause of killing the planet. From the video, it is clear that most people would believe that bottled water is pure and I also abide to that.. but not anymore. It’s interesting to see how the bottled water companies have set this marketing ploy to push people to buying bottled water – it’s almost like propaganda! How they have manipulated our thoughts towards tap water, I don’t agree more than to label it propaganda. I’ve thought about it, and how much I personally buy bottled water, and just based on myself I can see stacks of empty bottles in my mind.. when Annie Leonard talked about the time she went to India to see the extent of recycling, I could quickly see the damage bottled water can cause from its disposal and being told it was going to be ‘recycled’.
I think the video, and all the other videos by Annie Leonard really show people how wasteful their lifestyle is and how this is governed by corporate decisions. Which reminds me of how Phillipe Starck talks about designing for less, there are too many things out there, we need to design for less.. I guess it would also relate to producing less waste. All in all, by designing for less, we can achieve more because we use less resources, produce less waste, use less space etc. Which is why “Less is more” is important!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Project 1: Designing for Disasters

During the project, it was critical that I had to understand what it was like in a disaster situation. Personally, I have been through countless cyclones, but living in a 1st world country didn’t really give me the correct perspective. Throughout my research, I’ve seen many vivid images that depict the destruction and despair involved with living through these disasters. The research really put into perspective the fact that the neglect in this area has led to greater damages to both society and its economy.

It was very hard in the beginning to come up with a plausible solution for those in Bangladesh. A few ideas seemed good, but weren’t feasible and impractical. What I found was really important is understanding the living conditions and environment of the people before these disaster events, and not just to look at the aftermath. This is where I found the design opportunity in agriculture, by knowing that agriculture is the most important sector of Bangladesh, I could see how cyclones affect that, and it would recover from it.

The project for me was primarily research based, after I had found magnetism to be a possible solution to soil salinity. I had to understand the science behind it, and it was really complicated. Having to decode the chemical compounds and reactions that take place under magnetism was the hardest part of the project, because I would have to explain it in layman’s terms so that everyone could understand. This was still very hard, as in the presentation, I found myself ranting on about chemical compounds and technical terms which I don’t think many people understood. I guess it’s important to know your research, but it’s more important that the panel can understand it.

After the project I realized that it is important to transfer your research to your final boards and rationale, because it really sets the scene for the rest of the project. Research is imperative and without it you can’t really prove the concept. One thing I found is trying to get responses from professionals is almost impossible – unless they’re really nice, but the ones I asked didn’t reply at all. Regardless, I know now that the internet doesn’t have everything, and you have to outsource and ask some professionals in order to get the right information that you need.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Design for Life

Design for Life brings a very interesting perspective of the world of design, mainly because Philppe Starck is a nutcase, but really they way he thinks about design has more social and emotional impact than his action. He says “product designers affect every moment of our life.....our chairs, screen, cups.....Each is the result of deliberate design decision”. This really puts into perspective that even the smallest, most common objects have design built into it, and by understanding how these objects have gone by unnoticed really puts into perspective what good design is. It is not necessarily just to make things look good or organic, but to understand the human interaction that happens between the object and us. Starck also emphasizes how our current lifestyle is wasteful and how we don’t need a lot of the things that we buy or are attracted to buy. I guess it really goes back to the old philosophy of “Less is more”, and Starck does also mention this philosophy of reduction in the show. Also, he emphasizes the fact that design is meant for everyone, we must design and cater for everyone’s needs and not just to a specific group of people. I think this is important because we are usually looking at designing for a group or target market, but really I guess this is only a starting point. We design for them, but in the back of our minds we have to consider how people outside of that group would interact with the product.

I think that we can all learn from Starck’s philosophy, even though he is a nutcase, they way he thinks brings a new perspective how we design, and how if we can incorporate this philosophy we will truly create good design.

Charette 2

The aim of the activity was to take apart an appliance and analyse the parts in terms or material, weight and perhaps manufacturing process, as well as transport costs. So in essence we were looking at the appliance and calculating the life costs of the product as well as the environmental impact of manufacture, usage and disposal. Eventually we would conceptualise a ‘new’ product with a smaller cost around it, in terms of material, shipping etc.

The appliance we got was a Breville Iron, while taking it apart it is interesting to see the number of components that go into such a simple, everyday product and that how complicated it really is. Considering the large number of components, it was clear that one clear aim was to reduce the number of parts required. It was also apparent to us that the spray function was probably unnecessary because the iron had a steam jet to begin with, so that was an area we considered early on. The largest and possibly the component that had the largest environmental impact was probably the heating element and conductive plate for ironing. These components are pretty integral in the product so that reduction of parts in that department was somewhat limited. Also, there were a large amount of fixings, screws etc. these required labour during assembly, and that also adds to the costs that go into the product. As a result we decided that the product could be assembled without any fixings at all, everything would be clipped on and this would reduce the number of components because they could be designed into the moulding of the product rather than ordering in a large number of screws in order to assemble the product. Our final design involved removing a large number of parts and components, mainly the spray mechanism, where that does not seem to be a necessary feature of the product, as well as eliminating the use of fixtures. The end result seemed to look more like a traditional iron, which I guess is the most basic form it can take. All the extra features are really not required for ironing a piece of clothing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The 11th Hour

What a powerful and interesting video. The 11th hour really shows us how wasteful our lifestyle is, and how the corporate world has gotten a grip on our lives, how we spend, use things etc. It's amazing to see the science and statistics behind the state of our planet, and how in many cases people try to reject this reality.

Tom Linzey makes a very good point, “Today, ecosystems, forests, streams, lakes, they have no rights. Which means they could be bought, sold, destroyed, traded or carved up.” The way people are thinking is really affecting our planet, and naturally people want to own something. There can’t just be a plot of empty land lying around. Someone wants to and will eventually buy or trade this land, or any other natural, undeveloped areas. I think this is about how people are greedy, and they want to own everything and everything is tied to money. By being greedy, people are also selfish, in a way that they would really only do things for their own good. But in reality, it is the corporate world that controls everything, the corporate giants will only do things for their own good and helping the environment isn’t something that would help. Another example of the power of the corporate world, is the episode of 60 minutes (the excerpt is in the 11th hour) where James Hansen talks about how the Bush administration is muzzling him and other scientists who warn about global warming.

“The problem is that our sub-system, the economy is geared for growth.. where the parent system doesn’t grow, it remains the same size, as the economy grows it displaces and encroaches upon the biosphere, this is the fundamental cost of growth” – Herman Daly.

Drawing from the charette a week ago, we found out how wasteful our lifestyle is, by discarding items even when they are still functional. An interest statistic – an average American produces 730kg of waste a year and this really ties in with what Ray Anderson said, “We have a system that is a waste making system”. The way we produce and manufacture things produces more waste than the end product, and this is a huge amount of waste. We simply just don’t have the resources to waste like that.

In all, our planet cannot sustain our current lifestyle, and in order to make things right, there are a lot of things we have to do other than to sign some treaties saying a certain country will reduce its carbon emissions. In order to rectify the damage, we need new intentions for the future, and a new way of thinking. We also need to treasure the resources we have, as they are highly valuable and cannot be replaced in a hurry.

Charette 1

The charette was an interesting activity, where we had to rapidly produce ideas for a specific product, in my case, it was the Ikea stefan chair. The task involved us targeting the different pleasures which relate to increased user experience which then relates to extended product life. The activity, along with the lecture gave a pretty interesting scope where a majority of the products we buy and maybe not even use end up in landfills. Alot of the time, products aren't used to their full extent, for example the trend in mobile phones gives it only a 12month life, whereas the technology may be outdated but still usable for a couple more years. I think that promoting long-term satisfaction in products is a really good idea, where that in terms of environmental issues, it addresses problem we have today where we discard products before the end of its usage life.By addressing and promoting long-term satisfaction, people can probably gain product attachment, like if you really like a product alot, and it stays functional for a long time, you tend to grow fond of it, and that is pretty interesting, because most of the products we buy, are probably due to impulse, and we don't really think about whether we really need it or not.

Looking at aftermarket products in terms of extending product life and increasing satisfaction gives designers a greater scope in which we can work in, because it is pretty hard to target everyone and simply because everyone is an individual, we all have different needs and tendancies. It also allows for greater creativity in ideation, because you aren't really restricted to say, making a chair. I guess, this is what allowed us to generate ideas quickly in the activity. If we were to change the chair itself, it would be a much harder task, and wouldn't finish it in 15minutes. Collaborative problem-solving also helped because there are a number of brains at work at the same time, and that's good, compared to one. I think it makes it alot easier to just throw out ideas in groups, and see what others think about your idea. Sometimes there are drawbacks, like one person could be a loud mouth and own the group, and that could result in drowning out other interesting ideas that were mentioned.

Our Product

In our group for the final collaborative activity, we came up with the concept where we could enhance the chair in terms of involving it with other activities. We looked at a demographic which may purchase the chair in the first place, and decided to look at parents with young children. This gave us the initial idea of bonding and play between the child and the parent by incorporating the chair as a medium to play on. Our final idea was a set of toys which would attack to the legs and supports of the chair, examples such as letter blocks, and cars were the initial thought, and we went with that. Perhaps there were other design opportunities by incorporating other toys that could also attach to the chair, so there would be more variety for the parent, and the child to choose from when purchasing. Personally, I think that letter blocks are one of the most effective, as it allows for the child to learn by creating words.
The blocks are made from EVA foam, similar to the type used in the spongy floor mats that piece together. This creates a safe product for the child as it has no sharp corners, and is soft. The properties of EVA foam also allow the product to grip onto the chair legs preventing them from falling off.