The act of creation: Design as metaphor

Copper_lota_big_l_2Being a late convert to the cult of designerhood (um, what else would you use for realizing you’re a designer?) – my tipping point was the exchange of spectacle frames with Satish Gokhale, who was in town from India for HP’s DesignAbout conference yesterday. We were showing off our respective designer spectacle frames, pun embedded, to each other for visual approval. I wonder if that is how designer’s greet each other, like the Masons and their secret signals? 🙂 I’m laughing at myself as I write this – I had originally come to the computer to reply to a friend who needed some help packing that I had a lot of boxes from my recent move available – and instead I was overcome, helplessly, by that dreadful monstrous disease, bloggeritis.

I came close to titling this post bloggeritis except that I know I have a proper piece to write, and it deserves a proper title. Here are some snippets from the Eames Report to Jawaharlal Nehru, after the Indian independence, without any referential comments from me. And I won’t urge you to read it, but I would suggest, that as an example of Charles and Ray Eames’ writing on design philosophy, please print it out 🙂

We have been asked by the Government of India
to recommend a program of training in the area of design which would
serve as an aid to the small industries. We have been asked to state
what India can do to resist the rapid deterioration of consumer goods
within the country today.

the light of the dramatic acceleration with which change is taking
place in India and the seriousness of the basic problems involved, we
recommend that without delay there be a sober investigation into those
values and those qualities that Indians hold important to a good life,
that there be a close scrutiny of those elements that go to make up a
“Standard of Living”.

recommend that those who make this investigation be prepared to follow
it with a restudy of the problems of environment and shelter, to look
upon the detailed problems of services and objects as though they were
being attacked for the first time; to restate solutions to these
problems in theory and in actual prototype; to explore the evolving
symbols of India.

The nature of a communication-oriented society is different by kind – not by degree.

decisions must be conscious decisions evaluating changing factors. In
order to even approach the quality and values of a traditional society,
a conscious effort must be made to relate every factor that might
possibly have an effect.

here lies in change and conscious selection and correction in relation
to evolving needs. India stands to face the change with three great
advantages :

First: She has a tradition and a philosophy familiar with the meaning of creative destruction.             

Second: She need not make all the mistakes others have made in the transition.               

Third: Her immediate problems are well defined : FOOD, SHELTER, DISTRIBUTION, POPULATION.

This last stated advantage is a great one. Such ever-present statements
of need should block or counteract any self-conscious urge to be
original. They should put consciousness of quality – selection of first
things first – (investigation into what are the first things) on the
basis of survival not caprice.

all the objects we have seen and admired during our visit to India, the
Lota, that simple vessel of everyday use, stands out as perhaps the
greatest, the most beautiful. The village women have a process which,
with the use of tamarind and ash, each day turns this brass into gold.
But how would one go about designing a Lota? First one would have to
shut out all preconceived ideas on the subject and then begin to
consider factor after factor :<insert cliff hanger here>


We would hope that
those leaving the institute would leave with a start towards a real
education. They should be trained not only to solve problems – but what
is more important, they should be trained to help
others solve their own
problems. One of the most valuable functions of a good industrial
designer today is to ask the right questions of those concerned so that
they become
freshly involved and seek a solution themselves.


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