AWOL trends http://awoltrends.com Trends tracked by designers, for designers Tue, 21 Mar 2017 21:59:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 ETHNO CLASH http://awoltrends.com/2017/03/ethno-clash/ Tue, 21 Mar 2017 21:52:27 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4860 Western design has effectively permeated the global aesthetic culture. You can go to any country in the world and see either the influences of Western design, or the objects of Western design themselves (iPhones, cars and SUVs, Nike sneakers, glass skyscrapers, Coke cans, high heels and sport coats, bicycles, sunglasses, etc). North American and European Continue Reading

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Western design has effectively permeated the global aesthetic culture. You can go to any country in the world and see either the influences of Western design, or the objects of Western design themselves (iPhones, cars and SUVs, Nike sneakers, glass skyscrapers, Coke cans, high heels and sport coats, bicycles, sunglasses, etc). North American and European designers have been stylistically colonizing other cultures for decades now, to where it is very rare (and delightful) to see something truly unique come out of a non-Western source. Because there is a certain homogeneity emerging with this global design aesthetic, it is a breath of fresh air to see something imbued with the actual culture of where it originated. Like a wine’s terroir, it is extremely satisfying to not only connect with an object on the user/tool level, but also at the cultural level; to immediately get a sense of the unique geographic and ethnographic ingredients that went into the crafting of that object. Too often, what we see offered from non-Western countries are simply mirrors of the Western aesthetic, parroted back to us with minor editing (Sony design has historically seemed to embody distinct elements of the Japanese culture, but can anyone say the same for Samsung and the Korean culture? Or Huawei and the Chinese culture?) The 50 examples shown in this post represent countries as diverse as Japan, Persia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Greece, the countries of Africa, and the Native American culture. They build on those societies’ rich history of hand craftsmanship: weavings, patterns, ceramics, textiles, prints….in many cases story-telling through craft. But they are modern reinterpretations of those crafts, blended with the Minimalism and Modernism of the global design aesthetic. In many ways, these examples represent both a clash of cultures and a blending of cultures at the same time. For example, the War Rugs from Afghanistan depict the reality of modern drone warfare in the beautifully woven tapestry that is that region’s tradition. The Native American themed sports wear from Adidas borrows from the rich tribal tradition of totems, but realized in modern printed nylon track suits (and not without controversy). Less on the clashing end of the spectrum, several examples show how the intricately carved screen patterns of Middle Eastern culture become incredible macro-scale architectural features in modern construction. We especially love the Spiro speaker from Thukral and Tagra in India…this is a concept that absolutely NO Western designer would conceive of, and it absolutely looks like it emerged from the soul of an Indian designer. Bravo. So designers in non-Western countries: we have enough Apples over here, please show us what is special about your part of the globe!

For related trends, also check out Exaggerated Craft, Modern Form/Primitive Material, Re-purposing, and Era Clash

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GUIDED BEHAVIORS http://awoltrends.com/2016/10/guided-behaviors/ http://awoltrends.com/2016/10/guided-behaviors/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:23:10 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4746 Fundamentally, design is an interplay between users and technology. Almost always, this relationship is a one-way street where the technology has to be adapted, or softened, or explained, or packaged in such a way that any user can immediately understand and wield it. Note that we’re using technology in the broadest possible sense here, meaning Continue Reading

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Fundamentally, design is an interplay between users and technology. Almost always, this relationship is a one-way street where the technology has to be adapted, or softened, or explained, or packaged in such a way that any user can immediately understand and wield it. Note that we’re using technology in the broadest possible sense here, meaning any tool whatsoever, low tech or high tech, digital or physical. Hammers have sculpted areas that show where to most efficiently grip them for swinging, digital UIs have tiered menu structures and virtual buttons that prevent information complexity from overwhelming the user. However, sometimes that one-way relationship can reverse direction, and the user becomes the thing that is influenced by the technology. As it turns out, people’s behaviors are highly elastic, and design can be a very effective tool for modifying some of life’s toughest behavioral challenges. Whether trying to quit smoking, eat healthier, improve punctuality, improve food and drug safety, or improve environmental mindfulness, clever designers are exploring ways to tackle these challenges via the design of the object itself. The key is that the object has to already be intimately involved in the activity, which then through design provides a subtle hand on the scale that tips the user’s behavior to something more desirable. For example, the Don’t concept is an ashtray that visually “cancels” out the cigarette. Or the ETE concept, which is a plate with visual portion control cues. Or the Coke Share concept, which is a split-able Coke can to share with friends. Honda’s Insight display glows a lovely green when you’re driving at peak efficiency (gentle acceleration and braking). All of these examples could easily be a smartphone app (or your mother/wife) that reminds you: “Hey, don’t smoke that! Don’t eat that! Slow down! Don’t be late! Share with your friends! Quit playing XBOX!”….but can you imagine how quickly you’d want to smash your mobile device (or the aforementioned relatives)? When tackling sensitive or embarrassing behaviors, there is a strong tendency to “shoot the messenger”. Obviously, having the behavioral nudge associated directly with the passive objects themselves would be much more effective, as well as less persistently annoying. Many of these behaviors are truly difficult to try to counteract, just look at the size of the multi-billion dollar diet and fitness industries. So now can you throw not only money and time at a behavioral problem, but design as well. I know if my XBOX controller got slightly hotter with each passing minute, until I had to drop it steaming on the floor like a red-hot brick of charcoal, and then me flapping around the house yelping in pain, my wife would not disapprove.

For related trends, also check out Exaggerated Affordances and Informational Graphics

 

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ORIGAMI http://awoltrends.com/2015/10/origami/ Mon, 05 Oct 2015 16:24:58 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4553 The art of paper-folding originated in China and Japan hundreds of years ago, and has evolved into a masterful artistic genre. This simple method of turning a two-dimensional pattern into a three-dimensional form has been (for us Westerners) a delightful source of little paper swans, jumping frogs, boats, and tiny hats. But modern designers have Continue Reading

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The art of paper-folding originated in China and Japan hundreds of years ago, and has evolved into a masterful artistic genre. This simple method of turning a two-dimensional pattern into a three-dimensional form has been (for us Westerners) a delightful source of little paper swans, jumping frogs, boats, and tiny hats. But modern designers have looked beyond the novelty of this ancient folding method to breathe new life into categories from Fashion to Furniture, Automotive to Accessories. According to true origami principles, a form is created from a single sheet of material which can only be folded, not cut (that would be kirigami). Modern design interpretations have moved past these strict rules, being generally inspired by origami rather than strictly following the traditional constraints. This includes evolving from traditional paper to working in structural fabrics, pleated plastics, hinged panels, and a variety of other modern materials that afford unique forms and animated movements. In fact, movement becomes another key part of the modern reinterpretation of origami, as designers explore the flexible nature of patterned folds to allow forms to twist, expand,  and bend in response to external forces (see the Origami Door concept). Also, the fragility of a material like paper can be addressed by fusing together rigid angular panels with a flexible mesh, creating a material that is both semi-rigid and freely deformable. Clothing and housewares like lamps and chairs seem to be obvious candidates for this treatment, as they are commonly created using basic fabrics and sheet stock materials. But more daring applications are possible even in challenging categories like consumer electronics (as in the Origami phone) or sporting goods (as in the folding kayak). In these cases the desire to have a flat-packing unfolded form for easy mobility is paired with the need for a robust, rigid, sculptural three-dimensional form, a perfect application of the origami trend. We can imagine a similar method used for bulky items like acoustic guitars, backpacks, strollers, suitcases, tents, or even automobiles…anyone up for the challenge?

For related trends, check out Organic Facets , Vacuum Forms, and  Planar Forms

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PROTO-FACTURING http://awoltrends.com/2015/03/proto-facturing/ http://awoltrends.com/2015/03/proto-facturing/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 23:44:18 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4488 Rapid prototyping has been a tool used by the design, engineering, and architecture fields since the advent of computer-controlled fabrication systems in the 1990’s. The basic methods have been either additive (stereolithgraphy, 3D printing) or subtractive (CNC machining). Additive methods slowly “grow” the part within a build chamber out of various substances that bond with Continue Reading

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Rapid prototyping has been a tool used by the design, engineering, and architecture fields since the advent of computer-controlled fabrication systems in the 1990’s. The basic methods have been either additive (stereolithgraphy, 3D printing) or subtractive (CNC machining). Additive methods slowly “grow” the part within a build chamber out of various substances that bond with either heat or light. Subtractive methods take an existing material volume, and carve away at it via a cutting tool. For years, these methods served the design industry well to give a quick physical representation of what could only be seen in CAD on screen. Within days or hours, depending on size and complexity, a designer or engineer might be greeted in the morning with a beautiful physical part sitting on their desk (as builds typically occurred during night-time hours for efficiency). Conversely, they might be greeted with the horror of a giant steaming pile of mangled chaos in their printing machine, if one of the many variables for achieving a successful build went awry. Now that printing technologies have improved, become more reliable and less expensive, more and more creative professionals are adapting rapid prototyping into their workflow. Used in this fashion, the physical creations had value in the context of the design process, but were usually shelved or used as paperweights once they had been assessed. Similarly, early adopters of this technology outside of the professional design community were pretty much limited to producing intricate baubles and cool-but-useless sculptures. Now, however, companies are adopting rapid prototyping methods to supplant traditional large-scale manufacturing methods. Beginning with the Gen 2 iPod Shuffle, Apple began to explore using CNC milling machines to create their aluminum housings, which they have recently scaled up to include their unibody MacBook Pro line. The old rapid-prototyping logic of taking hours or days to mill a single laptop body on a single milling machine is broken once you consider an entire factory in China filled with CNC machines, turning out laptops by the thousands. What they achieve through this method really can’t be accomplished with the traditional manufacturing methods that define their competitors’ products. Nokia (rest in peace) achieved a similar breakthrough by combining CNC machining with standard injection molding on their line of Lumia phones. Nike has also recently released a set of cleats with an intricate structural pattern that could only be achieved through additive prototyping methods. Even Invisalign uses 3D printing processes to create each custom tooth mold that goes out to their customers. We’ve coined the term “Proto-facturing” to capture this new adoption of rapid-prototyping methods into the scale of mass-production manufacturing. Although these are large companies with near-infinite money to spend, there are many smaller-scale entrepreneurs seeking to leverage the easy availability of build capacity (either through on-line prototype vendors like Shapeways, or low-cost 3D printing machines like MakerBot). And these designers are seeking to go to market with their printed products, not just create cool-but-useless shelf curios. As such, they are also taking full advantage of the unique aesthetic opportunities afforded by additive/subtractive prototyping processes. These include complex organic cellular structures permitted by 3D printing, as well as printing complex mechanical assembles in a single pass (with no post-assembly). Printing with exotic materials such as carbon fiber, metal, concrete, ice, wax, edible sugars and starches, and even living cells are being explored. Also, unique API programs can be developed that allow users to adjust the 3D model around unique data sets, like music, location, or even seismic data. Now for the buzz-kill: there are serious limitations to these technologies. 3D printers and are still an investment, have limited build volumes, are painfully slow, produce parts with poor surface quality and high fragility, and the per-part cost is orders of magnitude higher than traditional injection molding. CNC machining is still an art form best left to skilled technicians, and is not at the “print-and-forget” level of 3D printers. It’s also generally time-consuming, costly, and expensive. Sorry to insert that dark cloud into your silver lining, but these are factors that every designer will have to take into account. But for the right client and right product, and also where production volumes are low enough to make typical mass-production manufacturing methods a costly investment, proto-facturing may be the magic bullet that helps get your product to market. In the end, we believe this technology should be about making great products widely accessible, not showpieces for demonstrating a novel technology. But hey, that’s just us.

For related trends, check out Infographic Artifacts, Naturalism, and Enabling Processes

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BLOBJECTS http://awoltrends.com/2015/01/blobjects/ http://awoltrends.com/2015/01/blobjects/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 19:20:53 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4420 The term Blobjects was coined in the 1990’s to represent an emerging trend in product design. Blob-Objects were increasingly finding favor with designers who were empowered by the ability of new 3D CAD software to sculpt and deform organic shapes. This most likely emerged as a counter to the more angular, severe forms generated in Continue Reading

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The term Blobjects was coined in the 1990’s to represent an emerging trend in product design. Blob-Objects were increasingly finding favor with designers who were empowered by the ability of new 3D CAD software to sculpt and deform organic shapes. This most likely emerged as a counter to the more angular, severe forms generated in the previous decade (when digital tools were still in their infancy, and forms and graphics were still a product of analog thinking and processes). Ford introduced a rounded, blobby design language with the Taurus, and continued to evolve this aesthetic for the next decade (and other brands followed with their own blob-cars, the new VW Beetle, the Chysler PT Cruiser). At the time, Blobjects seemed fresh, friendly, simple, and imbued with a certain whimsical personality that defied harsh boundaries. They were often paired with intense colors, elliptical graphics and parting lines, or massive, almost anatomical, animated forms (as in the Swiss theater troupe  Mummenschanz). It’s no mistake that the first forms we tend to create as humans (play-dough shapes, crayon scribblings, poopies) tend to be very blobby. Despite the fact that 3D CAD tools have been in common usage for many years now, the appeal of Blobjects has yet to completely fade from the aesthetic landscape. More modern interpretations of this trend have seen it move beyond Automotive and Product categories, and into Furniture, Architecture, and even Fashion. Some designers have even made it their personal signature style (Karim Rashid and Ross Lovegrove, we’re looking at you), hitting every design challenge with the same Blobject hammer. Apple has even thrown out the occasional blob in their history (the Mighty Mouse, the iBook laptop). So where should Blobjects reside in the designer’s toolbox? Certainly in ergonomic instances, a heavily rounded form might conform to the hand or body more easily than an edgy form. Or if visual juxtaposition is the goal, a Blobject building set against a multitude of rectangular structures will certainly stand out. Blobjects are definitely not suitable for every creative situation, as they tend to have negative associations including heaviness, largeness, lack of sophistication, and whimsy. But for the right application, the right brand, and the right target user, big fat jelly beans might be just the ticket (although we haven’t found that magic combination yet in our design engagements). We’d really like to move this to the Declining Trends category, but creative professionals around the world seem to constantly be reinvigorating this theme, especially in non-Product and non-Automotive categories. But be warned, we’re poised to stick a fork in this potato and call it done.

For related trends, also check out Primitives and Naturalism.

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SPATIAL REINTERPRETATION http://awoltrends.com/2014/08/spatial-reinterpretation/ http://awoltrends.com/2014/08/spatial-reinterpretation/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:37:23 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4360 There are only so many aspects of an object that designers can influence. Physical objects have proportions, form, surfacing, color, material, finish, detailing, graphics…and that’s about it. Fundamentally, creative professionals today are dealing with the same set of realities that Greek architects or Chinese potters were considering thousands of years ago (maybe with the addition Continue Reading

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There are only so many aspects of an object that designers can influence. Physical objects have proportions, form, surfacing, color, material, finish, detailing, graphics…and that’s about it. Fundamentally, creative professionals today are dealing with the same set of realities that Greek architects or Chinese potters were considering thousands of years ago (maybe with the addition of pixels). But today’s designers, being the unruly creative sort who don’t like being put into well-defined boxes, have seemingly invented a new physical property. This new property has less to do with the actual object, and everything to do with its relation to the space around it. This trend, Spatial Reinterpretation, seeks to twist, bend, scale, and invert the way we expect an object to sit in space, so that commonplace forms are presented in a completely new light. Perhaps inspired by the ease with which objects can be manipulated in Computer Aided Design (CAD) modeling applications, designers have used similar transformational tools to open up new doors of thinking. For example: why have a lamp sit on a table, when it can hover above it? Or a planting pot that hangs inverted from the ceiling instead of grounded on the floor? In most instances, you wouldn’t notice a small generic hair clip, but what about when it’s scaled up 10 times on a girl’s head? Or the way Boxee’s simple cube is rotated to break the ground plane of the table surface? In the examples shown here, some common operations seem to be most favored: massively scaling an object (larger or smaller), rotating an object into an unlikely position (including upside-down), or breaking gravity (either by floating an object, cantilevering a form, or breaking through the ground plane). Looking at the simple but effective CapitalOne credit card, rotated to portrait instead of landscape, completely challenges our notion of what we’ve seen as a credit card for the last several decades…all with one simple spatial rotation. Most of these examples are geared towards aesthetic impact and novelty, and many are purely artistic statements with little regard for functionality (I’d have a very hard time scrubbing my kitchen floor, thank you very much Inverted House architect). But for objects like lamps and other interior décor (and potentially consumer electronics) where functionality is balanced with artistic expression, this stylistic mode may take your design explorations into unexpected areas. In other categories where functionality really rules the design relationship, like Automotive, this trend may be difficult to employ (although I did see a CHiPs episode once where Ponch was chasing a custom-built backwards car…but that was in 1980). Certainly today’s architects are finding novel ways to bring this theme into the buildings we live and work in, as they strive to break away from classical relationships. This trend may even have ancient military origins: Iktinos and Kallikrates may not have known about Spatial Reinterpretation when they built the Parthenon, but apparently the Trojans did

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MEMPHIS 2.0 http://awoltrends.com/2014/05/memphis-2-0/ http://awoltrends.com/2014/05/memphis-2-0/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 22:53:21 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4303 It’s hard to invent a new aesthetic. That’s probably why it happens so infrequently. However, that did not stop a young Milanese (Ettore Sottsass) and a small group of other European designers from giving it a real shot. In 1981, their Memphis aesthetic debuted at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair to great acclaim. Apparently Continue Reading

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It’s hard to invent a new aesthetic. That’s probably why it happens so infrequently. However, that did not stop a young Milanese (Ettore Sottsass) and a small group of other European designers from giving it a real shot. In 1981, their Memphis aesthetic debuted at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair to great acclaim. Apparently inspired by this Bob Dylan song, Memphis was undeniably playful, light-hearted, animated, and chaotic. Characterized by primitive geometric forms assembled chaotically together, bold primary and pastel colors, and dynamically unstable postures and proportions, Memphis looked like nothing else in our aesthetic landscape. Some likened it to a crazy mash-up of Bauhaus and Fisher-Price. Although we can see some inspiration from  Pop Art and Art Deco themes made popular decades earlier, this really was new uncharted stylistic territory…always a tricky proposition when trying to appeal to the mass consumer market. Which it largely didn’t. Although receiving initial critical acclaim, Memphis failed to capture the hearts and minds of 1980’s culture in a meaningful way (which is surprising due to the ‘80s reputation for massive cocaine consumption and David Lynch movies), and soon faded into obscurity. Flash forward 30 years to 2011-ish: Memphis-inspired design starts showing up on the runways and furniture shows, very slowly and in subtle ways. Then Christian Dior goes all-in with their Fall/Winter 2011/2012 collection. Now, with a whole host of Memphis-inspired furniture at the 2014 Salon del Mobile, Memphis is officially back. We’ve been monitoring it for the last few years, but now it has matured enough to earn its place amongst the other trends on our site. Memphis the Sequel is stylistically very similar to the original version, but with color palettes moving more into the pastel range, and a wider exploration of Wireforms. Some of the original black/white banded patterns have evolved into more modern and sophisticated 2D graphics. While at the moment Memphis 2.0 is well represented in the boutique furniture and couture fashion categories, we see potential to move into other parts of the aesthetic landscape. Over the last year, our design team has explored the potential for this trend in the consumer electronics category, which should be debuting later in 2014. Naturally, this stylistic theme is not for every brand or target user; I don’t see Mercedes coming with a Memphis S-Class any time soon. Brands considering this trend have to be supremely confident (and yet not too self-absorbed) to pull this one off successfully. So designers: reclaim that big box of Legos from your parent’s garage and start cramming them together…Memphis is back.

For further reference, also see the deeper movement from which this trend is derived, Irrationalism.

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GENERIC CHIC http://awoltrends.com/2014/03/generic-chic/ http://awoltrends.com/2014/03/generic-chic/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 23:17:33 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4252 Designers in the Premium/Luxury categories have always striven to differentiate their work from the great unwashed teaming masses of regular consumer products. In trying to communicate “I am better than you”, products in these categories have relied on such design levers as length (stretched limousines), height (top hats and rooftop penthouses), rare materials (gold, ivory, Continue Reading

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Designers in the Premium/Luxury categories have always striven to differentiate their work from the great unwashed teaming masses of regular consumer products. In trying to communicate “I am better than you”, products in these categories have relied on such design levers as length (stretched limousines), height (top hats and rooftop penthouses), rare materials (gold, ivory, fur, or rich Corinthian leather), and form (both gaudy and minimalist) to communicate status, class, and power. However, in its struggle for self-improvement, the mass consumer market has steadily co-opted the visual vocabulary of wealth in a never-ending climb of the stylistic ladder. Now even the most common car brands feature wood and leather trim, entry-level homes include marble counter tops, and food-stamp recipients sport Coach purses and gold iPhones (according to Fox News). Nothing could be as un-classy as showing up for dinner at Nobu, and the valet is wearing the exact same Rolex…so what is today’s discerning millionaire to do? Well, much like the Seuss-ian wisdom of The Sneetches, a new trend is emerging to fix just this very problem: Generic Chic. Instead of the consumer co-opting the premium, we’re turning the tables. Premium is now co-opting the most basic, generic, neglected forms and icons of the masses. Designers are now taking everything from throw-away water bottles, to take-out boxes, to shopping bags, and giving them a luxurious veneer of gold plate or glossy porcelain (thankfully, encrustation by Swarovski crystals has not been a component of this trend as of yet). Borrowing from the cognitive impact of the Material Reinterpretation trend, the consumer is presented with an object that is both familiar and fresh at the same time. Generic Chic emerged in the Jewelry/Accessories categories first, and has steadily moved into up-scale housewares and furniture. Although there is a certain tongue-in-cheek playfulness inherent with this stylistic theme, there could be real opportunity for employing it in more visible categories like Fashion, Automotive, Consumer Electronics, or Consumer Packaged Goods. Diamond Tic-Tacs, anyone?

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IRRATIONALISM http://awoltrends.com/2013/12/irrationalism/ http://awoltrends.com/2013/12/irrationalism/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 00:39:03 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4191 In the world of design, the careful study and application of the fundamental rules of aesthetics is the mark of a true craftsman. The aesthetic theme these rules have created, the modern movement of Rationalism, has deeply influenced the everyday objects in our lives. From the structures we live and work in, to the digital Continue Reading

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In the world of design, the careful study and application of the fundamental rules of aesthetics is the mark of a true craftsman. The aesthetic theme these rules have created, the modern movement of Rationalism, has deeply influenced the everyday objects in our lives. From the structures we live and work in, to the digital and physical design of the mobile devices we carry with us, Rationalism is rooted in the Bauhaus principle of “Form Follows Function”. This modern aesthetic seeks a completely logical, intuitive, and purposeful design solution for every aspect of a product experience. But a counter-movement has risen in parallel with this overly sterile and often boring stylistic mode: Irrationalism, and it is hell-bent on breaking all the design rules that permeate our stylistic landscape.  If Rationalism always seeks to provide a visual response for the question “Why?”. Irrationalism’s counter-response is always: “Why not?”. Pop culture provides some stellar examples of this attitude:  “Why do you have a large yellow cube on your head, Ms. Perry?” or “Why are you wearing a dress made of meat, Ms. Gaga?”. “Why not” is the only answer that need be given, as these choices not only defy rational explanation, but sharply disrupt our cultural preconceptions to the point where no explanation is even sought. To even try to explain would be to lessen the impact, to falsely imbue rational meaning where (purposefully) none should exist. So how can we define something that defies explanation, and especially how can we employ it appropriately in our creative processes? I once grew up with a kid who for a time wore his pants backward. Completely irrational, and he certainly couldn’t provide a reasonable explanation when confronted. But it gave him a secret pleasure, his own rebellious way of throwing a small stone against the glass wall of rules that defined his adolescence. Although his claim to have inspired the fashion stylings of Kris Kross was likely without merit, his example helps point the way to some basic insights about Irrationalism. When the category you are designing within is defined by generic sameness, or widespread adherence to engrained preconceptions, or simply looks overly inspired by the elements of Rationalism, then Irrationalism may be just the right tool to break the ice. Use Reinterpretation to take a basic design element (i.e. pants), and completely change its relation to the whole composition: scale it, bend it, re-color it, fracture it (or wear it backwards). Or use the power of Juxtaposition: force disparate elements together to create purposeful dis-harmonies. In a world defined by symmetry, explore asymmetrical solutions like the BMW X-Coupe, Nissan Cube, or TurboChef concepts. Although there are hundreds of ways to do this wrong (commonly called “bad taste”), a wide range of exploration will help ignite the spark the produces that one solution that is unquestionably right. Just don’t try the pants one, that’s already been done.

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INFOGRAPHIC ARTIFACTS http://awoltrends.com/2013/09/infographic-artifacts/ http://awoltrends.com/2013/09/infographic-artifacts/#comments Mon, 23 Sep 2013 04:23:33 +0000 http://awoltrends.com/?p=4142 Many have said that Design is communication. Typically designers are trying to express elements of a brand’s values, or communicate a device’s functionality or proper method of use, or weave a narrative about the relevance of the object in a person’s life. Sometimes, “because it looks cool” is as deep as the communication goes. In Continue Reading

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Many have said that Design is communication. Typically designers are trying to express elements of a brand’s values, or communicate a device’s functionality or proper method of use, or weave a narrative about the relevance of the object in a person’s life. Sometimes, “because it looks cool” is as deep as the communication goes. In very recent years, however, a new type of aesthetic theme has appeared wherein the object itself becomes a visual indicator of intangible data. Infographic Artifacts are physical representations of virtual information, at once existing as familiar objects (jewelry, smartphone cases, candle-holders) and also as embodiments of data sets (GPS locations, acoustic waveforms, world population data, etc.). These objects then have a strong and appealing duality, as their primary functionality (for example a coffee table) is enabled by the manifestation of a unique data set (your DNA profile). Designers using this stylistic mode have found a near-boundless source of material to work with: the big data sets that have grown increasingly accessible as our world becomes more digitized, and all possible metrics are being recorded. Vocal and musical waveforms, social media presence, geo-location, financial markets, geophysical data, worldwide demographics, these are just a few of the instances shown here embodied as Infographic Artifacts. This trend exists for now within the Conversation Pieces trend category, because for the moment that’s what these objects are: concepts meant to crystallize an immediate understanding of a bigger, less understandable, idea. But as data becomes more relevant for consumers, designers will likely find successful and marketable ways to fold this aesthetic theme into mass-consumer products. A car exterior that changes to depict a graphic of all places and destinations travelled, or a couch that changes color to show a family’s cumulative extent of sedentary TV watching: it’s not hard to envision how making big data tangible and immediate can impact people’s experiences and even guide their behavior for the better. So designers, now you finally have a reason to fire up Excel: get to work on those data sets!

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