SCAD Style: Design with RKS

Well the week flew by before I knew it, so when I got to work this morning I just as soon scurried out to see the Ravi Sawhney lecture at SCAD Museum of Art. (Part of the SCAD style lecture and event series) Mr. Sawhney is the Industrial Designer and CEO of  RKS Design, located in Thousand Oaks, CA, right next to Malibu. First off, SCAD does a great job at getting great, relevant speakers in pretty much year round, not just for this week. And as a citizen Jane, I also really appreciate that they are open to the public and anyone can attend. Many schools do not offer things like that and its important to return the favor to the community.

Mr. Sawney showed us a bunch of examples of RKS work, ranging from a smartphone for the blind, to a portable barbecue, to hydration technology to purify water. (FYI:He also helped to develop Teddy Ruxpin back in the day!) He also touched upon the whole design ethos, of which I got plenty of lovin' spoonfuls of when I studied ID at Syracuse and Pratt. For those unfamiliar with the journey of the Industrial Designer - we are told that design's real place in society is to improve it, to build upon it, to make the world both more accessible and more enjoyable. Its chief aim is to improve the quality of our lives. These are ideas we all like to get behind, and then creeps in commercialism and conspicuous consumption and to quote Mr. Sawhney, "Its not how you feel about the design, its how it makes you feel about yourself." True. A beautiful house can make you feel beautiful (a la Paris Market of course!) but in some ways it can seem a double edged sword. I willfully acknowledge that objects and clothes can shape the way we feel about ourselves, just as architecture can serve to elevate or denigrate --in the latest issue of Harper's Magazine there is story about the end of the high-rise public housing-- I have to question if we are perhaps hyper-attached to our objects and if we overly identify with "things". And is design improving our world, or are we just pandering to our own self absorption? Which is not really a problem I think design can necessarily solve, but its more of a psycho-social aspect/hurdle. Which Mr. Sawhney also pointed out. Many of the problems  they encounter in design, he says, are not the marriage of technical function and formal aesthetics, but are the everyday attitudes and beliefs of the culture. He brought up the design of a water bottle his team designed - a hard BPA-free plastic refillable bottle, Triton plastic I believe, as an elegant alternative to buying bottled water in the flimsy plastic you get your Poland Spring in. Is the problem the Poland Spring Bottle, or that nobody likes to recycle? He noted only 20% of them are recycled. Are water bottles the problem, or are people the problem? So are we admitting that we can't change people and we have to give them a cute water bottle instead? Or can a really good design change people's behavior? Such as this water bottle? If design can do that, than that is really amazing and applaudable. I mean, I could buy a Snapple Iced Tea and then fill that glass bottle up with water as much as I wanted to as well. But I guess that's not cute. It's not heightening our experience of drinking water and looking great doing it. 

This isn't a critique of  Mr. Sawhney or his work, but a testament to how good his lecture was -  he made me think about all these things. Are we, as a society, improving the way we live or are we just adding more crap to the world - driven by our narcissistic preponderances? But that's what makes us human - we make things. But they need to be valuable on multiple levels.'

I liked one of the things he said about Good Design - 'its hard to define, but you know it when you see it - which is kind of like finding your future spouse or wedding dress. We have only a foggy notion of what we want - and as he also pointed out - Designers are more the facilitator of good ideas than an unstoppable wellspring. This is a good point. Designers are facilitators, not dictators, and we need to always ask the end user what's important to them. He mentioned Joseph Campbell and Maslow as important influences, but ended with a quote from Maya Angelou: "People forget what you said, people forget what you did, but they never forget how you make them feel" And isn't that just the greatest design challenge of all time. Treating others with compassion. It also makes the most difference.

Unfortunately SCAD style ends today, but there is lots going this weekend - The Susan G Komen Race for the Cure, Earth Day at Forsyth Park with lots of events going on... and of course our Cupcakes and Cocktails party coming up next Thursday!! So excited for that!

Have a great weekend mes amis!!

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