The product design

'Why Do I Design'

Today design is taught and educated with prospects to better the world as we know it, but is this for the now, tomorrow, our lifetime or for generations to come? It is an essential quality for a designer to be able to really identify a client's needs and wants, to empathise, to understand and comprehend what will be suitable and even the best methods of production in order to achieve the best response from the client. Design is everywhere, 'from the moment they wake up almost everything that fills their world has been designed' (Rawsthorn, 2009). The role of the designer has changed from a functional tool used for a project to someone that is more of an aid to fulfill people's ambitions who's opinion and experience is valued and desired. To be a designer within what is thought to be the most entrepreneurial profession requires a discipline that is argued to be either 'natured' in that you are what you are and can be nothing more from a genetic perspective, or that you have choice and decision, you are 'nurtured', everything is from experience and abilities are learnt or sculpted to become anything you desire. Design affects everyone and is identifiable and measurable in a variety of different ways. It is evidence that humans exist and lived long after we have left it was first recorded through cave paintings and in the location of where they were found provides an understanding that teaches us how they designed products to better their lives. Design is an instinct. Without it, we would not survive; we would simply be another species of animal inhabiting the planet. It's what defines us and separates us from everything else. Understanding that everything around us all day everyday has been designed by someone, it shows us that there isn't anything that hasn't had a thought process, that hasn't had the time and attention to make life more enjoyable, safer and easier. Identifying the problem and the need to fix or prevent it is the instinct, a learning curve to help someone in the future who may reach the same predicament.

There is always a possibility that everything will eventually have a product for a purpose and that design will simply not be needed anymore, new design will be obsolete, only innovation will be needed possibly bringing a new title to an old job, we would become innovators which isn't an easy thing to do without new technologies. Because we are still developing new technologies design is currently always changing, design also changes because of economies, environments, social tendencies, communication and many more categories which all typically have their own implications that slow down the process and inevitably they are all affecting the climate which is a main reason that design is changing to try and prevent further damages that may occur to the planet.

It has been argued that design and industry are damaging the atmosphere and effecting climate change worldwide. It is something that a lot of designers are taking into account before they begin a new project making their design as 'green' as possible. However it isn't something that can be measured so easily, the moral implications when designing a new product has a pretty endless list to an extent if everything was to be taken completely ethically, we would not have many further products from that particular designer as all materials unless they're natural and not harvested for, will end up doing some sort of damage to the environment and atmosphere. The moral implications when designing alter the perspective in what the end product will be like and therefore a lot of time goes into the thought process in order to still meet the design brief from the client without having such an impact on the environment.

There are a lot of designers now that use renewable sources of materials so that the use of these materials doesn't have a permanent loss to the location that they are taken from but this is something that is more of a smaller organisation rather than huge design companies whom may only have the odd project using a renewable source. The immediate implication for this is that it is the bigger companies that get more projects of a bigger scale and their team is to work efficiently rather than economising on what materials are used and manufacturing processes are considered, as the smaller organisations are the ones trying to 'save the planet' they are fighting a losing battle. When a manufacturer has to increase their output to meet consumer needs if a product is to be mass produced, the world's natural resources are used, most of which are types of fossil fuels which are of course non-renewable, such as oil and others that take years to grow like timber. Depending on the type of wood that is used depends on the length of time it has an effect on the environment before it is replaced. Although a lot of luxury products are even today featuring woods as the 'finish' they are slowly not being used quite as much, especially from companies that produce a high volume of products from wood as their 'image' within the public eye is at risk now if they are seen as not to try and change for the benefit of the planet. Different types of wood grow at different rates, the harder the wood the longer they take to reach maturity giving the ideal aesthetic that people desire. The main UK boat decking fitter have now stopped using Teak for their decks, this wood is becoming a limited source and quite expensive. They have substituted if for a polymer that has the same properties in terms of durability but at a fraction of the cost.

As a designer it is crucial to be aware of what materials are available, the processes that they may have been through to get to the state that they're in and what else they're likely to cause during that materials product life. Global warming or the green house effect is becoming more aware within design and the effects they have to the environment due to gases that retain heat better than oxygen and these levels are increasing in the atmosphere. Something that not all designers are aware of is the level of pollution that the materials give off during their production and manufacturing techniques. Something designers should be aware of is the level of pollution that their product is likely to release during the whole life of the product, has increased as the rate of manufacture has also increased. Gases given off from coal burning power stations has brought an increase to acid rain which has cause damage such as pollution to lakes and forest areas. Carbon monoxide, a contributor to the 'green house' effect has increased dramatically the temperature of the atmosphere, although design is the source of most of the problems with the environment, it is ultimately the cure as well, science and technology allows someone to design a catalyst converter that can react with harmful properties to the atmosphere and they have been already, they have been put at the source of emission in car exhausts and on the inside of chimney stacks in factories to reduce the amount of harmful emitted gases.

We live in a society where we are constantly introduced with new products that we're told 'we need'. There is a huge variety in similar products that we can purchase with relative ease to fulfill our needs as users. The 'rise of consumerism' has risen to a point where manufacturers are now able to trade in global markets to countries which haven't yet developed their particular products, the technologies to make the products or even the materials to manufacture them. Doing this the seller is able to demand usually an unfair price increasing their profits, which is morally incorrect because instead of selling their products to other countries, they could sell the technology or the materials need to grow their own sources in order to manufacture their own products which the seller could still reap a profit but also the buyer would have the ability to develop themselves into being self sufficient.

A designer doesn't usually get the say for where in the world their product will be produced, a popular method for companies to reduce their costs and increase their profit margin is to manufacture their products in developing countries. A designer should be able to 'increasingly market themselves not by the visual style they create but by their business approach or, more loosely speaking, the way they structure and manage the design process' (Julier, 2000) they should also have an ability to decide where their product is to be manufactured. Cheaper labour for longer hours of work which happens a lot in eastern countries even after transporting all the materials to and from where they're to be produced is often massively cheaper than producing a product in the western parts of the world, the implication for this is that it is not fair for these labourers to work for long periods of time in poor conditions for next to no pay, but although designers are likely to be aware of this it wouldn't usually be in their power to insist otherwise. Fair trade is an organization that attempts to prevent this from happening by 'removing the middle man' so that the company that designed the product is to pay the manufacturers directly; this gives the employees a fair and justified amount of money for their work.

The implication of waste has been affecting the design process for the past twenty years, if the product hasn't been made from recycled materials then designers are trying to make their new products with this feature or from a material that can be recycled after the product life has expired. Waste has become a big issue especially as of twenty years ago pretty much nothing was recyclable so rubbish and litter would have either been burnt or buried. A lot of the waste was being buried in huge open areas which were left to decompose but a great deal of rubbish doesn't decompose. Again design is the beginning of the solution where we can make products that help us to recycle old useless or obsolete products to be used in a new method. Recycling has become a very serious and important issue with the entire world. Plastics are now stamped with a code based on one too nine, which means how easy it is for the particular plastic to be separated and recycled. There are a lot of designers again that only use and work with recycled material to maintain the original products life rather than scrapping it with an unconventional method that is damaging the environment.

To fully understand everything that implicates a design from start to finish is an entirely different profession and it is not what is being addressed, designers typically need to be aware of the impact that their design can bring and could things be done differently whilst achieving the same standard and quality? Understanding why a designer designs is complicating enough and unique to the individual. Understanding the impact that one designer has as a person on the world is not complicating and fairly easy to address. As a designer I personally have studied the processes and their overall impact on the environment, it isn't anything that I can change but when beginning the design process, I attempt to maintain realism to the designs without compromising on the quality but wherever possible make it a product that is ethically sound and within reason not to doubt the moral behind the product. Today's consumers are focused on having products that do everything the same as four or five products they may actually already own. Products appear to be getting more high tech and modern. Design has always got and probably always will have its limitations, usually these are something that can be monitored and observed like budget and materials yet the hidden factors are what need to be considered. Design is an instinct. As part of that instinct I think that the designer needs to be aware of the moral implications that their product could have from start to finish, something that can be taught and nurtured so that it becomes second nature for all designers. Every designer can comprehend the physical limitations and implications; it's those they can't see that they need to be aware of.


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  • Phillip RileyBA Product DesignN0215982

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