Design for the Times We’re Living-in
–An intro from Don Carr, Design MFA coordinator
Each year I look forward to exploring the various connections between the most recent collection of MFA thesis projects. Viewed as a collective, they represent the culmination of ideas that began more than 12 months ago. Looking back, it would be an understatement to suggest that much has changed during this period of time.
If the definition of Design is ‘to plan’ and ‘to adapt’ then as designers our goal is to offer ways to empower people to address the challenges of individuals as they embrace the new normal.
From a design research perspective, there are several themes that this work looks to address. One theme being that college students have become immersed in a sea of information. So much so, that they’ll seek-out design interventions that bolster their organization and time management efforts or serve as an oasis to decompress and destress.
Therefore, the work of Luying Wang proposes a ubiquitous digital post-it that allows the user to place reminders throughout their physical environment. To some, this product serves as a bridge to a time when the ‘internet of things’ will usher in a future of smart products throughout our smart environments. A possible antidote to information overload is a modern day decompression booth created by Tianyou Hui. The idea being that there will be times during the day when we curtain-off the world around us, take pause, and contemplate the restorative qualities of nature.
If you were to view this product on a 100 year timeline, Tianyou has almost completely inverted our relationship between nature and the built environment.
The environments we inhabit and rationale for venturing out to acquire goods and services continues to change as companies such as Amazon and Alibaba make overnight deliveries to our doorstep. This shift has been accelerated by the invention of the ubiquitous corrugated box known as the shipping container, an object that serves to symbolize an expression of mobility and global trade. Given the scale and sheer number of these objects around the globe, one might question how to subvert the use these products to address the housing needs of an aging population.
This became the focal point for Zihang Diao in his quest to envision a container house community for an aging population. The need to work as part of a collaborative team via virtual platforms is now essential. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves what can be done to make this mode of interaction as natural and intuitive as possible. Given this challenge, Han Zhao has explored how we might work at human scale with large display surfaces that become a window or in this case ‘virtual door’ to our co-workers.
At this scale, Han looks to recapture subtle qualities lost through the current desktop scale displays where each of us appears as miniature talking heads arranged in a grid. With all that is changing around us, it’s no wonder our search for the restorative qualities of ancient traditions find a way to re-enter our lives in new and different ways. Therefore, Hangyi Zhou has proposed we take time during our day and turn to our trusted water container to brew our favorite flavor of tea.
Watching the brewing process slowly spiral within the glass vessel, we’re able to focus on a ‘moment in time’ and reflect on our inner thoughts. The reward being an opportunity to refresh, rehydrate, and replenish our senses.
Viewed as a collection, these explorations are a reflection of our times and a window into our collective hopes and desires while offering ways to carry us forward in body and spirit.