Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lecture Simone De Waart + Ton Teerling

Materials & experience, a Sense of touch and smell
January 28 2008

Vlag team :
Seo Jeonghwa
Riviere Aurelien
Ito Fumiko
Chiang Ping Fan
Cadamuro Alessia

As students of design, in training to become masters of the profession, one would imagine a lecture from a fellow designer, an expert in materials, would bare more weight and raise more response then a food and taste psychologist working in a seed company, who came to lecture about the nose. But when Ton Teerling had finished his presentation, he was flooded by questions from eager students. Why?

Simone de Waart, an industrial designer, a material expert and an educator, had come to lecture about her expertise - materials. In 45 minutes, she had shared her view on the design process as one that should consider it’s materiality from the beginning, discussed the link between materials and experience, and presented a few of the projects she was involved with, most recently with the NS trains in Holland. It had been quite informative, and it had a point, and the audience was lost.

At first it seemed lost because of a few rules of design lectures broken: not enough pictures of products, not a lot of discussion about “real projects” (she couldn't share much on those), not enough controversial statements. It was a nice, safe, informative lecture in a quiet, self-assured voice. But when Ton Teerling took the stage he seemed to have broken most of the same rules, and still he kept his crowd fascinated.

Wearing a suit, Talking in a field much different from design, with a presentation so un-esthetic that even an accountant might suggest some font and color considerations, maybe even a picture or two, Ton had grabbed his audience from the get-go. Talking about the awesome power of recognition over our minds, and the way smell could be used to channel it (among other things), he jumped from side to side, talking fast and enthusiastically, keeping all eyes and ears on him. He even concluded his lecture with a list of reasons why designers shouldn't use smell in their objects, like he was trying to convince us his lecture was not really useful. Yet, the moment he finished speaking, the audience was shooting questions one at a time, eager to learn more about scent and recognition.

What was it that made his lecture so memorable and Simone’s so forgettable? At first, one might say its charisma. Ton seems like the kind of man who could convince an Eskimo to by sun tan lotion. His enthusiastic way of speaking and the genuine curiosity he beams (and of course his knowledge of human psychology), creates a man who makes most of what he says interesting enough to listen to.

But eventually, I think the real issue is that the designers where refreshed by the “unrelated topic”. It sometimes seems that lectures by designers on design have little to learn from. The information is circling between students, and most of them keep informed on-line. The designers sometimes get tired with hearing about design. Yet when introducing them with a new field, the wheels begin to turn. It is a profession in search of new, unpredictable influences, with an eagerness to know at least a little about a lot.
Ton’s lecture seemed to do so well simply because it wasn’t design. It was fresh, like a sip of water on a warm day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Arie van Rangelrooy Lecture

Source 04-02-2009

Arie van Rangelrooy confesses: he is not a hippie. When he leaves for Mali in the seventies, it is not to follow some spiritual or mystical path...
A year before graduating, the practical student is indeed advised to go to Djenné for a "spotting" mission by a teacher seeking for volunteers (mission that was to become his graduation project).

Djenne, it is a historically important small city in the Niger Inland Delta of central Mali. It is one of the oldest known cities in sub-Saharan Africa and its historic city center was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

This happened some years after Arie van Rangelrooy went to this place, where he was researching the city, the architecture, the urban planning, the living spaces, …

He traveled to another continent to stay there one year. During this year he was productive in measuring, drawing and archiving the cities architecture. This work lead to the protection of the city by UNESCO.

During the stay he connected to the people, their way of living and the culture. "We all know about misery and the huge differences between both lifestyles, but when it comes to seeing it, to experiencing it for real, you realize how hard their life can be and how lucky and disconnected we are" he says, still touched.
At this point, his African experience became all about exchange. Exchanging techniques, skills. Collaborating with local maçons, contributing to increase their efficiency, to facilitate their practice, yet not spoiling their ancestral building protocol. A humble observation and dialogue, he expected to have a proper social purpose.

He would go outdoors during the day, measure the streets, houses and rooms, while in the evening he would put all of this into plans. As there was no electricity and minimal contact with the outside world he would archive even the smallest ornamental decoration.

During the lecture he was talking passionately about the city and it’s architecture. And it is just the kind of architecture that makes the city interesting. Architecture of mud.

Why? Being close to the Sahara desert, the area lacked building materials such as wood and stone. People learnt to build houses with the mud from the Niger River. When the mud is mixed with rice husks and straw and fermented for a month, it becomes very tough, thick and rain resistant. To build a house, local people first lay sun-dried mud bricks. The brick walls are covered in mud plaster. This protects the inside of the house from the heat.

He talked about this, showing related pictures. Also reminding us of how this tradition was preserved. As the centuries passed by, the inhabits would restore their houses during the dry season. Although when Arie arrived this tradition went lost, as he arrived in a bad economic situation, where you have other priorities.

After the work of Arie and the protection of the site, the city was restored and now even grows again. Arie regularly goes back, and works together with master mud builder Boubacar Kouroumanssé. Together their busy with building an museum and school, using century old techniques. The changes with what Arie archived 20 years ago, is the fact that they now include electricity and running water into the building process. Also the “making a plan and reading the plan” is introduced in the process.

During the talk we had after the lecture, van Rangelrooy emphasized on the importance of social commitment in the practice of applied arts.
We also mentioned the difficulty to commit oneself in projects that make sense still making a living... According to Arie van Rangelrooy, this balance between ideals and survival is to be achieved once one has "showed its mettle".

Wise Arie first made a nice career in the Netherlands before recently going back to Mali.
He finally reached freedom of creation through social commitment because he was wise. Wise enough to wait. Wise enough to grow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Daijiro Mizuno PhD (RCA) -Fashion Research and Design-

“By looking at the space in between clothing and a body, both theoretically and practically, I aim to explore the fundamental aesthetics of fashion design in which the clothing and the body are harmonised.”

by Carolina dos Santos Reis
Although he was born in Tokyo in 1979, Daijiro Mizuno acquired all his university education in the UK. He completed an MA in Fashion Design in womenswear at the Royal College of Art and a BA in Fashion Design at the University of East London after having started studies in architecture. Then, he proceeded to investigate the non-verbal dimensions of fashion through its cultural characteristics for his PhD thesis while working for Shelley Fox as a part-time design assistant.
He has been teaching in Japan since 2006 at Kyoto University of Art and Design and at the Seian University of Art and Design, and also acting as a director at Critical Design Lab, a part of Kyoto University. Furthermore, he exhibited at the Royal College of Art and at the Dojidai Gallery, Kyoto.

In order to explain his projects, I will mainly cite his own words, not simply because it was the only information we received, but also in an attempt to provide the most accurate description of his work.
His previous project was entitled paperbag! girls, where he researched “on young girls reusing ‘brand’ shopping bags not in the context of recycling but in the context of consumption and (re)production of image”.
Also, he is currently working on two projects. The first is a joint project with the STBY and is entitled “Belonging and Belongings, investigating the relationship between virtual / real identity through the objects people carry”. The second one is “Universal Fashion, exploring the critical view on fashion design in the context of universal design”. Moreover, he explores “issues such as functionality, aesthetics, semiotics and commerciality in the cross-disciplinary manner”.

Focusing on such immaterial considerations in his practice, Daijiro Mizuno demonstrates the deep potential of the discipline and its link to a very wide range of social and individual considerations.
Despite the lack of data available on him, it can be said that his career has been oriented in a mostly theoretical manner, and that he seems to link his research into his creative work. The trajectory of his path is clear evidence of how his interest and passion directed his career into research, but it doesn’t reveal much about his personal motivation. All in all, Daijiro Mizuno appears to be a rather enigmatic character, who will definitely have much to share - especially from an academic point of view - when he visits the Design Academy on Friday, 27 February, 2009. Personally, I have a lot of expectations and I am looking forward to discovering Daijiro Mizuno.

Daijiro Mizuno PhD
Shelley Fox

The Stone Twins in flesh and bones

by Carolina dos Santos Reis

The Stone Twins sounds more like the title of a Victorian novel than a duo of trendy graphic designers. But there is a storytelling feeling to their name that perfectly describes these Irish twin brothers and their creative process. They presented their work in a lecture at the Designhuis on the evening of 11 February, 2009. The atmosphere was relaxed and casual. The audience, made up of a group of designers and students, attended the presentation on the cushioned staircase of the entrance hall.
Declan and Garech Stone both graduated in Visual Communication at the University of Dublin. Soon after, they moved to Amsterdam, not only because of the lack of opportunity in Ireland, but for a genuine fascination for Dutch culture in design and arts. They set up their own studio and from their first days consistently created with inventiveness and humour while remaining profoundly rigorous in the study of typography and visual communication.
They characterise their approach as graphic designers more in branding and identity than in the development of graphics. When commissioned for a project, they start by questioning the brief itself before going forward. This produces work that transcends common graphic communications, work that has made them stand out since the beginning of their practice. Their clients are very diverse, ranging from event and marketing agencies to the Zeews Museum and Adidas. Even with the most corporate of clients, they don’t hesitate to take things literally. This is maybe what inspired them to shoot the ADCN yearbook with a gun rather than a camera. Another interesting projects is the Logo R.I.P. publication, a funerary journey through logos that have become part of a whole cultural heritage, but have since been slowly disappearing through the massive re-branding of the 80s and 90s.
On the whole, they shed light on the importance of thinking both formally and theoretically in negative spaces. For the Stone Twins, graphic design is all about storytelling and creating content. Still, as designers we make choices and therefore have the ability to influence. We not only have the responsibility of making ethical choices through our process, but also to question the system of the design world. The Stone Twins, for example, mentioned the boycott of a specific pitch - a practice that has become very common, but sometimes having negative effects, especially for young startups.
Despite their inspirational words on the design world, there was a somewhat sterile feel to the presentation whose cause I am still unable to grasp. Maybe they were just tired. But my impression is that they might have restrained themselves in order not to contradict each other, which might have made them less dynamic. Indeed, it was amusing to see that they were not giving the same answers during the Q&A period. But then didn’t they say that hopefully their work was schizophrenic?


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gert Staal

Vlag group : Hanna Chung, Carl Harris, Chulan Kwak

Date: 21 January 2009
Article: Carl Harris
Photography: Hanna Chung, Chulan Kwak

Gert Staal Workshop

On the 21st January 2009 Gert Staal a writer on design, and a regular visitor to the design academy, conducted a writing workshop. The workshop was designed to be an exercise in creating ideas for the up and coming source publication. After a late start, we were asked to group together and think about how the source publication should be materialised.

We were given a time frame of one an half hours, and were asked to think “outside the box’. The exercise seemed to be well received. Many students liked the challenge of coming up with concepts and ideas in such a short space of time. After the group session, we all congregated in the lecture room where we were asked to present our ideas.

What started off as a promising creative exercise, descended into a long and painful talk about the structure of the program, and the positive and negative aspects of the project. Gert Staal looked helpless and decided to reframe from getting into the crossfire of discussion. The words ‘short discussion’ seemed unimaginable farcical even, whilst the debate raged forth for another hour.

The arduous task of separating concerns for the course and the actual reasoning of the day came to fruition, as Gert Staal decided to take back the lead and put the workshop back on track.

Gert Staal’s teaching approach is extremely pertinent, he posed questions that were well received and had no condescending nature to them. One of Gert Staal’s biggest qualities is his ability to motivate and get the best from the class. He uses anecdotes that keeps the audience interested, but always relates it to the matter at hand.

After a prolonged day the main points of the publication were decided and two teams had emerged (Editorial and Design Team). Many students left the master space feeling, exhausted and slightly annoyed that a workshop with Gert Staal had been tainted by an administrative discussion.

The phrase ‘productive end to a pitiful start’ sprang to mind.

-Carl Harris