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MARY-ANN&CO

My experience at the London Design Museum

During my visit to London, I made sure to visit the Design Museum, located near Kensington High Street in London. The Design Museum is an independent charity devoted to raising understanding of today’s designed world, which surrounds and affects everyone. My visit to the Design Museum was a rather good choice since it was a rainy day in London that day and I really wanted to do something that would inspire me and excite me with fresh and new ideas.

This is exactly what happened as my walk around the four floors of the museum, sparked my curiosity and creativity, as it got me thinking about the talent and imagination each design process requires but also the sense of responsibility each designer needs to have.

Below are some of the new things I learned at the Design Museum and some general thoughts on Designers and Manufacturers but also how design affects our sense of style and fashion, our personal choices and taste, and most importantly our identities.

D e s i g n e r s .

The work designers do shape our lives at every scale, from the architecture of our cities to the objects and systems we use every day. Different designers have different aims – some designers aim to create commercially successful products while others hope that their work will benefit society. And then, of course, many manage to do both. Whatever their motivations designers focus on meeting the expectations of clients and addressing imagined needs of users.

Designer Challenge: In few situations, client expectations are expressed in a formal brief. However, the job of a designer is a little more challenging than this as it is actually the designers who need to identify client needs and uncover what the expectations are.

Design Process: The design process involves research as well as intuition and progresses through trial and error. It may include sketching an idea, making a 3D model, or creating a prototype to ensure the idea works in practice. Designers increase their understanding of situations and spark their own ideas, by posing questions and observing how users behave. They rarely do this on their own – designing involves collaborating with manufacturers, engineers and other experts.

T h e  m a k e r .

The manufacturer – or the ‘maker’ – is the third partner in the design process. The maker will draw up the brief for the designer. This may include the materials and manufacturing processes to be used, the needs and aspirations that they think the product will satisfy, as well as a price. The brief may also consider ecological questions, such as how the materials are sourced and what happens to the product at the end of its life.

Makers work at many different scales. Someone creating a product in their bedroom, or garage is as much a maker as an industrialist running a large factory. Makers do not need to necessarily have their own production facilities but can rely on a network of distributed manufacturers who each specialise in a different process. They may also share designs through the social web, which creates new opportunities for users to become makers.

W h a t  i s  ‘g o o d  d e s i g n’ ?

In the 20th century, the Modernists believed that good design was about usefulness – how well an object performed its function. For others, good design is less tangible. It might be something that is capable of provoking an emotional response – perhaps through beauty or wonder. What is ‘good design’, is open to interpretation.

Many people share the belief that there is a moral or ethical component to design, and that design can be responsible for enriching our lives or ‘doing good’ in the world. However, if good design can improve our world then presumably bad design can harm it. This highlights the moral responsibilities of designers and the people who use their work.

S t y l e  &  F a s h i o n .

The choices we make as users may be influenced by both style and fashion. While these terms may be used interchangeably, there is a fundamental difference between them. Style can be thought of as an internal attribute, something that defines our sense of who we are. We may choose to follow fashion – or nit -but our style is more about us rather than about our clothes and possessions.

Fashion, on the other hand, is an external influence. It encompasses the clothes and products we see and our choice of whether we want to ‘fit in’ with current trends. While our style may remain the same, fashion responds to external factors such as the changing of seasons, world events or new technologies.

C h o i c e  &  T a s t e .

Consumer choice is a vital part of our society, helping to drive the economy and provide us with the products we both need and want. But how much do we really understand about why we make the choices we do? What motivates us to buy one product rather another?

Some choices are heavily influenced by practical considerations, such as how well a product performs a specific function or its value for money. Other choices are a matter of personal taste, with users opting for a favoured colour, material or style. Our decisions may also be influenced by our emotional needs – by our desire to evoke memories or to express ourselves. Whether it’s the clothes we wear, the cars we drive or the books we display, our possessions help define who we are, or who we want to be.

I d e n t i t y .

Whether we intend them to or not, the possessions we surround ourselves with play a role in defining our identity. This can range from our choice of clothes to the books we display or the cars that we drive. Our choices broadcast messages about our identities, but it is its design that ultimately creates and expresses those messages.

W o r k  i n  p r o g r e s s.

The most important lesson I took away was that everything is a work in process. Nothing happens overnight, and it takes a lot of work and effort to result in a successful design. However, through the partnership between the designer, the maker and the user, a ‘good’ design has the ability to transform and shape the lives of everyone around the world.

The Design Museum definitely made me step into the shoes of a designer even just for a little and made me realize how much creative problem-solving takes place before any final product goes out into the ‘world’. It fired up my imagination and made me want to roll-up my sleeves and start creating, designing and constructing something of my own.

*The above video was filmed in the London Design Museum by @maryannandco and was edited by @atticandcellar, www.atticandcellar.com.

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