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Lettre d’une jeune étudiante anglaise en design, 1970

ICSID Students forum 1970 (suite)

La revue « Design Industrie » publie en décembre 1971 (n° 106) un certain nombre de lettres adressées à l’ICSID(InternationalCouncil of Societies of Industrial Design) par des étudiants en design de 34 pays. Voir sur ce blog les lettres d’un jeune designer chinois et d’un jeune designer autrichien.

Ci-dessous la lettre de Jen Nemeth

A vital problem affecting Industrial Design as a profession is one with which I am, as a student, particularly concerned. The problem is – of course – design education. Interestingly, although my contemporaries tend to view this problem personally, it has far wider implications.It is not merely the problem of aspiring designers but that of all industrial designers, everywhere, because, of course, the training of industrial designers ensures that they will not much influence industry much less visually revolutionize society as many are content to pretend.

In point of fact the situation means that students – in this country certainly – are less and less excited about ideals and possibilities, and more and more concerned simply with getting jobs even vaguely related to their fields.

If schools of design continue to nurture « artists » (…)then they cannot be astonished that the production and building of our world is being done by engineers and computer technologists, by politicians, lawyers and contractors.

Computer science-technology, for example, is approximately as old as industrial design. Why has it burgeoned in a completely different way ?

Of numerous possible reasons, I would emphasize that the the healthier of the two was treated as a science. Theories grew, were developed, modified or discorded, and replaced. Simultaneously, with the mental gymnastics the mechanical aspects evolved and where established. thus a body of knowledge grew symmetrically – hardware and software – developments in one complementing and completing developments in the other. Furthermore, in the growth there is vast scope for organization and creation, for invention, for ingenuity and of course for great beauty.

These last attributes of computerology (let me make up this word to describe both science and applied aspects) are the very ways in which designers want to relate to the visual world, creation, invention, beauty. These attributes describe his attitudes, his abilities, his ideals.

Then why, why, at this stage in history is the influence of the industrial designer to minimal ?

Surely our aims could not be more laudable ? Why have we so little influence ? In an immediate sense, designers effect little innovation and industry. The contemporary example of which I am aware is the textile industry which has suffered all consequential innovations from without. Radical, regenerative changes would simply not have occurred without the invention of new fibres and new chemical finishes. For this design revolution the chemical industy is responsible.

In a more general sense worldwide problems of unprecedented scale confront us today. These problems are increasing in both number and complexity. In many cases I believe that solutions are really design solutions. Nevertheless, a telexcoping scale of time and geometrical population growth with its attendant consumption ensures that the problems will not wait but those quickest to comply will produce the products, build the buildings, create the environments. Those prepared to manipulate huge and complex problems are likely to be permitted to do so. Will such a group include us as designers ? Has it until now ?

Products, buildings, complexes, communities, entire cities – what will be our part in their design ?

As aspiring designers I believe that we can only again the right to a vital role in society by deserving that right.I feel that only proficiency can earn that right. Because of the nature of the problems we face, intuition alone is inadequate. We can no longer perform as artists. We must therefore establish a method of designing, a structured process to which other disciplines can contribute.

The method is a framework applicable to all kinds of problems. It permits the orderly development of a solution. In fact it amplifies the ability to create, for it controls the hypothetical solution in terms of the original need and the problem which that need generated.

I believe that our role will become more vital when our proficiency enables ou involvement – immediately in industrial innovation and more generally in problems of grand scale. An important way of increasing this proficiency will be to adopt from science its technique – that is, method. In our education for designing, we should become aware of design as process rather than as the creation of distinct objects.

The difference of course is that a process orientation is an openended situation that is applicable to any problem regardless of scale while the object orientation is a close-ended situation, that of the artist with its deterministic goal – the creation of finite objects. As the inputs are changing constantly it is useless to study design as apecific object orientation.

This is not the place to developp the notion of a design method. Much has been written about it – even though design schools show little awareness of such information. the stages of the method will inevitably include description, analysis, synthesis, management and control.

I believe that a method will allow designers to become more knowledgeable. As knowledge increases, the fear of knowledge will disappear. The designer will discover that the frightful knowled is just his intuitions verbalized.

Our proficiency will also increase with more industrial experience and technical practice. Method will facilitate the pursuit and subsequent application of these whithin our particular spheres of activities as well as in interdisciplinarian activities. By discussion ideas a design language of concept will grow. Such a language will have high communicability. Ultimately there could be question about our ability to contribute. (Incidentally I know of no school that would accommodate such a programme).

This approach, however, is based on my assumption that the designer is interested in extending this particular abilities beyond a tiny, monied elite, that he is indeed concerned with the proliferation of industrial design and its potential to humanize our world. Perhaps this is an entirely false assumption. Perhaps industrial design wishes to retain an elitest position. If so, the need for design method is invalid and design education can proceed in the same old way. This may be an interesting question for the Congress to consider. In addition they may attempt an estimate of the % of industrial production that built environment, expressed in dollars or in sheer weight, is the industrial designer responsible for. Perhaps one aim of the conference could be a plan to revise this figure -upwards, and to let aspiring designers take part in the revision.

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