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Designer Data

Once upon a time, excel rules the world. Endless graphs, pie charts and spreadsheets provided the platform for data visualisation with the first generation of the digital age relying on its boring simplicity to apparently add some spice to their presentations. But this was all very 1990s, not that there was anything wrong with 90s, but dated all the same.

Recently, as a love child of excel’s mind-numbing-ness and good quality software means data ha entered the world of the designer. Infographics are another of 2012’s buzzwords, sexy data engaging its audience. Do they have any worth?

The answer to that is sometimes.Image

With all design, some is useful, some is not. Providing relevant and interesting information is a way that true engages with its audience shows good design thinking and can really be a string to a designers bow. And while there are plenty of rather useless ones, the further away from excel we get, the better.Image

Death by powerpoint is so 1999.

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There are a number of key topics designers are faced with when starting a speculative project. These topics define a projects direction and purpose.

Sustainability. Transport. Housing. Obesity. Healthcare. Megacities. These stand out amonst the plethora of issues the modern world faces and are all valid areas of direction.

But it is the topic of ‘designing for developing countries’ that really does not make sense to me. First of all is the term itself. Who is to say what a developing country is? What makes a society developed… Mass consumerism?

The second gripe I have with this term is how such projects come about a play out. These projects, traditionally, are western designers thinking that they are doing their bit for the world. Design problems can only be solved in local context, with deep understanding of culture, language and socitey. These remote projects rely on a technology-centred approach, applying developed technologies to the ‘developing world’, not developing new technologies in context with who will be using it – Human centered. The short term nature of these projects, not taking into account for sustainability, local capacity, expertise, etc. means any product design is irrelevant for improving these areas of the world.

I’m all for applying design to the people who may need it. We just need to understand what they want/need, why they need it and how it is going to be sustained. The only way is to hand the design process over to the people who understand that.

Solar Grills for Developing Countries, need I say more?

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Marxism in Design

The hype about 3D printers doesn’t seem to be running out of steam. The BBC have ran an article on how the technology will spark the next age of revolution; industrial, digital and now creative. Moving design into the hands of the people who use it – Democratic Design.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19347120

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How houses should be built…

I’ve been working in R&D within the construction industry for the past 4 months.

What has struck me most?

How pre historic the UK house building industry is.

House builders lack of ambition and innovation (which is assumed to mean risk) is quite startling given the technology available. According to the house builder, consumers want to know what they are gettting when they buy a house and again they have assumed that that means building houses in the same way and style for the past 30 years. Increasing pressure to improve the rate of construction and quality of houses has provided a significant challenge to the people who are building the UK’s houses on mass, mainly where its hurt them most, their wallets.

Innovation in housing comes from the tiny spec of society who are willing to take, what is percieved to be, a high cost risk. Criticism from the ‘real world’ usually means these innovations are kept for the elite few but, alas, maybe we have found a comercially viable, high performing alternative to the downright awful housing currently being produced.

Facit Homes, recently exhibitioned on Grand Designs, uses on-site manufacture to build beautiful houses, at an affordable price, that actually performs to the standards required in the modern world. Lets just hope more powerful suitors jump on the band wagon and push this technology. Housing that is actually designed for the user.

An example of a well designed house.

With a well designed manufacturing method.