Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Koert van Mensvoort

Written by Saara Järvinen

Koert van Mensvoort (PhD) gave a lecture at the Academy on 13 May 2009. He started by amazing the audience with an entertaining introduction on himself. He even proved us his boogie skills. This gave us a taste of what to expect: a visual rollercoaster of Koert’s visions.

Koert defines himself in many ways. He has an art background but also a PhD from the Technical University Eindhoven. His field stretches from art to technology and philosophy. This shows in the pieces he presented to us.

A good example is the Datafountain, that displays the money currency rates in a water fountain. Koert claims this kind of “information decoration” can be a more calm and open way to present data. ”Currently many digital information appliances force people to retrieve information from sources that are not attuned to our human physical bandwidth at all”, says Koert.

Koert focuses on explaining the theory of Next Nature. By this he means the nature emerged from human culture. Our naïve idea of nature as forests and wild animals isn’t very accurate anymore. His new definition of nature is that it is something beyond control, whereas culture is what we control. There are many examples of the blurring of culture and nature, such as indoor beaches, man-made islands in Dubai and tissue engineering. Next Nature is a particularly Dutch issue of course, considering that The Netherlands is so much shaped by humans.

Our view on nature is affected by what we see in the media. Something fake can be more real to us than the real thing. Koert deals with this in his documentary “The woods smell of shampoo”. The title refers to a girl who goes to a forest and associates the smell of trees with pine-scented shampoo.

The lecture created controversy in the audience, and raised questions on individual freedom. It seemed that the theme made us feel anxious and powerless. This is interesting considering that we study in a future-oriented field and even have possibilities to have an effect on the development.

Koert reminds us that not only culture imitates nature, imitation exists also in nature. Koert gives an example of the walking leaf, an insect that disguises as a leaf. Imitation is natural, and according to Koert, this gives us hope. Also, human manipulation over nature has always existed. “Playing with fire is what we do” says Koert. We long to control nature, but there are always surprises.

Furthermore, fusing goes both ways. Culture takes natural forms for instance in the construction of Internet and road networks. It is important to remember that our culture is a product of nature.

Chiang Ping Fan: Editing the video.
Huang Tzu Chun: Filming the lecture, Weblog update.
Henry Wilson: Biographical article, Interview, Presenting the lecturer.
Kitikoon Worrasorratorn: Photography, Poster, Graphic design of dvd cover and vlag package.
Saara Järvinen: Review article, Communication.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Eric De Clercq and Gert Staal

written by Carl Harris
photograph by Hanna, Chester, Kwak

On April 28th 2009 Eric De Clercq and Gert Staal visited the Design Academy for a workshop with the students and source publication meeting respectively. The workshop taken by Eric was divided into two parts.

The morning session focused on creating a small video that could be analyzed by the students. Students dispersed into small corners of the masters space, each thinking of how to get the most out of the task. There were only a small amount of students that were present in the workshop. If I think back to the past workshop with Eric, it lacked any depth and technical aspects within the medium of video. The lack of numbers corresponded to the frustration felt by the students whom previously attended.

This workshop however had a better balance between technical interview techniques delivered in an academic way, and a creative quick video that delt with editing.

The short videos that were presented by students, all varied in style and technique. There was an interview, a past video morph project and a stop motion photo shoot video. All were analysed in a quick, swift but informative manner.

The afternoon session had a more academic feel. Eric gave a lecture about interviewing techniques within video. He gave examples, anecdotes, information regarding dos and don’ts of interview styles; How to frame the interviewee, the importance of building a relationship, all combined to present a very informative two hours. Although the number of students diminished everyone who attended participated in discussion. There was a sense of thirst for knowledge.

The success behind the video workshop was due to the structure and content that differed to the previous workshop. It was more about educating and less about developing our creativity. We as creative students don’t need a lesson in creativity with video; we need a lesson on video and how to edit.

Overall I believe the day was very productive. The only disappointment was the lack of students whom could have witnessed a transformation in workshop and video technique.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

DAMIAN O’ SULLIVAN (01/04/2009)

Editorial Article
DAMIAN O’ SULLIVAN (01/04/2009)
Text: Maurizio Montalti
Photo's: Nichon Glerum

Damian O’Sullivan is a dutch designer who also works covering the role of mentor in the bachelor course at the “Design Academy” in Eindhoven.

He has been one of the “lucky” selected designers who have been invited by Paola Antonelli, director of the MOMA in New York, to join with his work one of the most exciting and astonishing exhibitions ever presented in the design field: “Design and the Elastic Mind”.

That’s why on april 1st 2009 he has been coming on the 5th floor of “De Witte Dame”; to give us a lecture: a presentation and a general overview on some of the content of that great event he has been part of.

Over the past 25 years, under the influence of such milestones as the introduction of the personal computer, the Internet, and wireless technology, we have experienced dramatic changes in several mainstays of our existence, especially our rapport with time, space, the physical nature of objects, and our own essence as individuals.
“Design and the Elastic Mind” considered these changes in behaviour and need.
It has been highlighting current examples of successful design translations of disruptive scientific and technological innovations, and reflecting on how the figure of the designer is changing from form giver to foundamental interpreter of an extraordinary dynamic reality.

It’s an exploration in the explosively reciprocal relationship between science and design in the contemporary world.
His lecture started with a friendly critique adressed to the “Design Academy” in itself, a very good school specialized in conceptual design and craftmanship expressed through high aestethics, but still lacking that very important approach with a scientific oriented level, if confronted with other big institutions in the world, as the MIT or the RCA, dealing a lot more with future scenarios and technologies.

After explaining the way the exhibition was set up, through the seven main chapters, he gave us examples of some of the presented projects, one for every chapter.

Then he started showing some of the works made by the italian designer Elio Caccavale; a collection of toys (MyBio) exploring the emergence of biological hybrids in biotechnologies, as well as our moral, social, cultural and personal response to these “transhuman” creatures; each of the twelve dolls he made symbolize a possible biofuture and aim to introduce young children to emerging technologies, inviting them to think about the ways biotechnologies can affect their lives.

Another shown project was “Technological Dreams Series” by Dunne&Raby, objects meant to spark a discussion about how we’d like our robots to relate to us in a possible future. As technology advances and robotic experiments abound (ranging from the pragmatic to the exquisitely absurd) designers are taking a closer philosophical look at our future interaction with robots. Will they be subservient, intimate, dependent, equal? Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby look at robots as individuals with their own distinct personalities and quirks, thinking that devices of the future might not be designed for specific tasks but instead might be given jobs based on behaviours and qualities that emerge over time. New entities: technological cohabitants.
One more was the task devoloped by portoguese designer Susana Soares, titled “BEE’S, New Organs of Perception”; a project based on the evidence that bees have a phenomenal odor perception and can be trained within minutes using Pavlov’s reflex to target a specific odor. Their range of detection goes from pheromones and toxins to disease dignosis. That’s why she developed a range of alternative diagnosis tools that use trained bees to perform a health checkup, detect diseases, and monitor fertility cycles.
After passing through some other shown projects he finally came to present his own as the last one of the lecture: the “Solar Lampion”.

Unlike most solar lamps, which are left in a fixed position outdoors, Damian O’Sullivan’s “Solar Lampion” has been concieved so that at night users can take the light with them into their homes. The designer came in contact with solar technology at a very young age, as his father was responsible for the energy supply for the satellites launched by the european space agency.
The geometric spiraling of the “Solar Lampion” recalls both natural structures, such as pinecones, and the shape of traditional chinese paper lanterns. The lamp is composed of layers of concentric rings, each one holding six solar cells inclined thirty degrees to better catch the sun’s rays .Each solar cell is connected to an LED fed by a rechargeable battery. The solar cells store the sun's energy during the day and release it at nightfall wherever you need it."
Unfortunately he did not give us all these informations and i personally think he could have give us a better insight into the different projects; the overall lecture was sounding a lot like a very general presentation of the amazing MOMA’s exhibition, probably still astonishing for somebody that was completely unexperienced about it, but surely not for all the others.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Frank Theis

A Brief Look into the Transhuman Revolution

By Dana Cannam

Frank Theys is a Belgian visual artist who currently works out of Brussels and Amsterdam. He recently visited the Design Academy Eindhoven showcasing his 2006 documentary Technocalyps, a science fiction meets reality documentary describing the potential realities of a human being enhanced by the seemingly limitless boundaries of technology. The film includes various interviews by a selection of specialists currently working on shattering the limits of the human kind however, does little to question the ethical considerations of such fundamental changes. Can this reconfiguration of the human species be carried out successfully without the total understanding of the possible consequences to our future?

There is no denying our natural ability to question what we perceive as a means to manipulate the environment around us. The advancements in technology today are allowing the human species to harness and control this ability at levels never seen before. Are we heading towards a future dictated by someone else who creates these technological options or will we have the ability to control over our own destiny. Who will decide what is ethically right and wrong when designing an existence without limitations? The unforeseen consequences of these decisions may prove to be disastrous but is technology willing to wait for our permission? It does seem as though a technological apocalypse suggested by the title of Theys documentary is inevitable.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Daijiro Mizuno - Rationalizing Intuition

Daijiro Mizuno and Bas Rajmakkers
Photograph by Susana Camara

Article by Carolina dos Santos Reis

Young PhD Daijiro Mizuno took us on a journey through his work and views on design during his presentation last Friday, 27 March in the Design Academy auditorium. Unlike most of our lecturers that are active designers designing commercial products, he distinguishes himself by focusing his investigation on the act of designing itself. He surprised us with new and different perspectives showing us how all components of the creative process overlap.

If I were to describe Mizuno in three words, they would be passionate, curious and playful – all qualities a designer needs to pursue studies at the higher level and dedicate his career to research. Although Mizuno feels there is no difference between Japanese and Western design anymore, he is influenced by his environment. Since he is now spending most of his time in Japan, his Paperbag Girls project was an installation showcasing the phenomenon of Japanese women who collect branded paper bags, carrying them as a secondary bag carefully matched to their outfit. Even if this is very particular of the nippon society where fascination and addiction to brands is at it’s strongest expression, it happens also in other countries. Mizuno’s interest goes beyond the local cultural definitions. He would rather elaborate on why and how this represents new Zeitgeist as a contemporary form of consumption. This project was inspired on the theories of Bourdieu and Foucault, on accumulated photographic data and influenced his students to create new paperbags. What emerges from this study is how ideas are interwoven between theory, research and practice.

In his professional discourse, Mizuno cites issues like identity, ethics, sociology, history, economics, and psychology, among others, to understand fashion. But his main interest is the irrational dimension present in fashion. For instance, when he studied Universal Fashion Design, that is, garments specially designed for physically impaired persons, he questioned why they were so dull and unattractive, and why it is so important for fashion to offer irrational matters as a social object related to identity. This led him to develop a collection of clothing based on analyzing the physical limitations of the disabled and the kinetics of the body. While the resulting pieces looked like ordinary garments, they had hidden details that facilitated mobility.

Mizuno’s fascination about how designers make sense of themselves led him to focus on the mechanisms of the design process and its inspirational sources for his PhD thesis. When he worked as a part time assistant for Shelley Fox, he became very intrigued with the creative process and how the formal outcome emerges. This motivated him to study the mechanisms of the process more deeply, by both examining other designers and his own method. He stresses intuitive properties in the development of design and the importance of synaesthetics in the outcome of creations. His investigation was based on the concept of orality by Walter J. Ong, to find the traces of tangible shapes hidden in the language and expression of fashion. To cite Mizuno’words, he “applied "Orality" as a means to analyse the psychodynamics of designers represented as clothing design. It can mean shapes of collars etc..., although it can be problematic to analyse clothing in linguistic manner”. Moreover, he used the theories of Seigo Matsuoka, an editorial engineer, to critically reflect on how ideas arise. According to Matsuoka, the world is composed of a sum of information and the idea is the synthesis of this; this is where intuitive enlightenment begins. To better explain his investigation, Mizuno assembled diagrams to help us visualise the links between all parts, and to identify clusters and reoccurring patterns.

Another project he is working on is Belonging and Belongings with STBY, a social research service for design innovation. It examines identity through different means and how style is associated to location; in other words, how a context can alter what is communicated by a subject, and conversely, how a subject can influence the perception of a place.
What arose is that the most common objects of daily use, like clothing, often encompass the most complex considerations, including social matters like identity, communication and moral values. Maybe it was the richness of this content, touching on such intricate, abstract and diverse subjects, that made us seem somewhat perplexed at the end of the presentation. Maybe it was the hidden theme of his lecture, as he later explained to me, that challenged our own preconceived notions - to demonstrate how theory, research and practice can be incorporated without conflicts.

The lecture would not have been complete without the workshop introduced by Bas Rajmakkers that followed. The students of the Man & Humanity Master programme were able to reflect on and discuss their own creative and research processes using a diagram based on Mastuoka’s concepts. In this way, Mizuno shared a part of his work in a more practical context, which gave us a better understanding to what intuition is linked in our personal research patterns.

Diagram used in the workshop to analyze our personal research process

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Resumè of the interview:Kiki van Eijk & Joost van Bleiswijk

Written by Maurizio Montalti

On march 4th we had the possibility to conduct an interview with two well-known dutch designers: Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk.

The interview started with an investigation for a better understanding of their perception of “time”, a subject strongly present and recognizable in most of their works. What emerged is a vision of time as something not very strict, but something that still exists and that’s reflected, for instance, in the time consuming pieces that are a result of the accurate polishing process in Joost’s work. At the same time he was highlighting how the past is still the present , and this can be found in the archetypes , where the concept of time does not exist anymore.

For Kiki, instead, time equals quality, time is life itself and it’s about enjoying things around you, referring to very personal things . Afterwards, Joost pointed out how his interest in architectural forms and construction methods, born from the experience in working and the curiosity of discovering elements, became a strong inspiration for his work. Initially he started highlighting the relevance of the translation of the round shaped feminine profiles into strong masculine representations, based on edges and squares, but when we tried to understand better this difference between masculine and feminine design he said that there’s not this big gap; it’s just something emotional and subtle.

Kiki, differently, was adressed with a question about the value of memory in her works, something she said is not really there; she described her designs as something much more related with quality and real craftmanship, objects not only functional but that also contain, in the way they are looking, an emotional feeling, like she found out in some books about old tools.
She said her inspiration comes out by itself, she’s never looking for it...it just happens...all of a sudden you open a drawer and there is something, asking her to create something with it; it’s an intuitive process, that she tries to lead to the creation of something very pure, helped by the unconscious active experience in materials and technology.

Then we came to talk about the influence and the relevance of Dutch Design in the past and in the “now” and they talked proudly about how Dutch Design had improved the world of design in general, even if nowadays it doesn’t really matter anymore; indeed sometimes it’s also becoming “bad” being dutch, as it is often associated with a marketing tool.

Talking about the educational system in The Netherlands, they were appreciating it a lot , and in particular they were underlining how the “Design Academy”, where they also studied previously offers a very good combination of a vague, “arty” approach and of the structured goal of education: in a way it’s an environment in which you’re always “forced” to go in depth, research, find what fascinates yourself...and explore yourself, find out the best for you as a person; that’s the main distinguishing carachteristic from any other institution, they said, the overall mentality...;and the fact that the academy is specialized in design...and just that.

When we came to talk about the design industry and the topic of “limited editions “, connected with the actual economic crisis , they pointed out how this phenomenon is not always “honest”.
They said that “limited editions” are there for a reason: they respond to the request for an expensive product in terms of time and materials. They said it wouldn’t be fair for the collectors to make endlessly pieces when they cost a lot...

At the same time some people are using these phenomenon as a tool to make more money, so that it becomes a trend, just by changing colors or materials of previous popular designs and increasing the price. They forecasted that these people and companies are gonna disappear, faced with this crisis, but the “Limited Editions” reality will still be there in its autenticity: things made by hand, attention to the detail and expansive materials and processes. They consider limited editions as an investment as they did it for quite years; and because of this there’s a value; because there’s a range of evolution over the years; it’s a keep-on-growing process.

Afterwards we talked a bit about Milan, adressing them with a question about their prevision on this year’s “Salone del Mobile” edition; they see the possibility of having something a bit less extravagant; they also decided not to have a solo show this year; they will only present projects they made for labels. And what they predict is that probably many designers will do like that.
Kiki was saying that this is because a solo show has to be at least at the same level of the previous one and to do so it needs time to develop a collection and also, because maybe there are more appropriate platforms for showing these kind of “limited edition” collections, like, for instance, “Design Miami/Basel”. Besides Joost said that it’s not necessary anymore for them to show their works in the popular Salone’s windows as they already know the press agents and the gallerists and they are not anymore in need of promotion and publicity. But never say never; it’s always a big fun to make a good show for a collection.

We ended the interview with a light question about the connection between food and design, something relevant for Kiki, that is also art director of “De Witte Tafel”, a resturant placed in the basement of the same building, in which the Design Academy is placed: for her working with food and design is just an interest, an opportunity that came out after her graduation and that she decided to develop, adressing it in the exactly same way she designs...creating connections, transparent visual feelings and fresh atmospheres. They both were very kind and warm. It’s been a pleasure.

Editorial article: Kiki van Eijk & Joost van Bleiswijk

Written by Michael Leung

Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk started with a photo of themselves in a workshop, both dressed up. In the picture, Kiki was leaning against her ‘High Table’ made with powder coated steel and Joost standing beside her, both staring a trophy in the ‘No Screw No glue’ series Joost had made for himself as he wanted one but have received none so far, he said. Kiki and Joost are known as part of the new generation talented Dutch designers. They graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven and started their studio since. Kiki is working on her own projects which have been exhibiting in many places and also work on projects for brands such as Swarovski and Moooi. Joost have been working mainly on his own projects like the ‘No Screw No glue’ series.

“Hands on” as the theme of the lecture, Joost explained how they set up the new studio in Strijp-s and showed us the before and after pictures. Like the theme, they prefer to really get their hands on making things, from their studio to their design, even the snacks in their exhibitions. They believe it is the way to design, really get your hands on to it. It’s also a reason that most of the works shown are limited editions. Like the first few pieces in the ‘No Screw No glue’. The material used is plywood, not the most precious or valuable material, but Joost said the time and effort they had to spend on it makes the difference. Also with the later pieces, which is made with stainless steel sheets that are laser cut and then polished and hand assembled. Another reason for making the limited editions is that they have to worry less about the production costs. It is also a way to protect their client since they believe it is not reasonable if someone paid so much for one piece, but they keep making them, which eventually diminishes the value of the object.

The lecture then divided into two parts, first with Kiki explaining her works and then Joost explaining the exhibitions they did during Milan Furniture Fairs and his works. The way they work is quite similar, focusing on the technique, material and archetypes, yet, the style is rather different. Kiki’s design is more emotional, like some elements repeatedly used in her design, which she personally links to. She explored different materials throughout her works and it is not difficult to see some well crafted details. Joost’s works is more masculine, like his ‘No Screw No glue’ series which he had worked quite a lot on. It is a series of limited edition objects that he made with plywood and stainless steel sheets. Like the title, it is all about the way the pieces are constructed in. with over 4 years of development, Joost now mastered the skill and is able to make more complicated objects through the simple structure.

The lecture ended with an interesting Q & A section. A question from the audience triggered Joost to give some very useful and practical advices, especially about the Milan Furniture Fair, where they have been showing their limited edition pieces. With the financial crisis, Kiki and Joost will be showing a lot less limited editions this year. Limited editions are now becoming limited. It is time to show some designs that are for users and not collectors.