Icons of personal fabrication

Something about the line-up of covers on the Icon magazine website struck me.

All the moody portraits of pensive designers in immaculately-cut monochrome schmutter (ok, except for Karim Rashid, but hey…) reminded me of a talk I attended back in architecture school by Jan Kaplicky where he juxtaposed one image against another to illustrate what he thought was important about design.

It’s a method used throughout Future Systems‘ published work, especially the excellent "For Inspiration Only".

First, he brought up a moody, black-and-white, Anton Corbijn-esque picture of Richard Meier – black cashmere turtleneck and all; dramatically lit against horizontal window blinds. The archetypal Howard-Roark pose.

Kaplicky boomed: "This is not design. This is not a designer." and flicked the slide to a sunny snap of a carpark at Boeing, full of the hundreds of people on the design team there for the 757 smiling and waving up at the camera (I think): "This is design. These are designers"

I’ve always loved that moment from Kaplicky’s talk, and subscribed wholeheartedly to the idea that the ‘great man/woman’ theory of design is bullcookies, at least for most things outside of the couture-culture of boutique graphic design, architecture or applied art celebrated by most of the design press / the Design Museum.

3dprint_1But – in these dawning days of ‘self-centred software‘ and personal fabrication technology, could it be that Kaplicky’s Boeing carpark picture is rapidly becoming the anachronism?

As  one of the speakers at eTech on the coming fabrication revolution said (I think it was Saul Griffith), the design of objects, tools, devices, artifacts (and architecture?) is going to go through the same waves of democratisation, demystification and down-right gawdawful design as graphic design did with the advent of affordable desk-top publishing technology.

Look forward to seeing how Icon might reflect this in coming years…

0 thoughts on “Icons of personal fabrication

  1. The presentation method you refer to has been coined by Ed Tufte as “small multiples.” There’s an example of it on the cover of his Envisioning Information book: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_ei, plus many examples inside his books. A useful way of making high level comparisons across many similar items.

  2. The Boeing carpark picture is also becoming an anacronism in that the group of people involved in any one design are less and less likely to all come together in one place at one time so you could take their picture together…

  3. I met the guy who has taken some if not most of those portraits, came in to give me a tutorial on studio lighting. Not what you would expect.

    Still I agree with you. It’s the carpark, not the individual.

  4. Pingback: Preoccupations

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