This year, the DIAlogues event series aims to dig deep into the relationship between design and technology. The second event, ‘For richer or for poorer? – Do we need a post-nuptial agreement’, placed technology in the spotlight. Five panelists including Byron George (Russell & George), Jane Burry (RMIT University), Elenda Low (XYZ Workshop), Beck Davis (Queensland College of Art, Griffith University) and Christina Waterson (Artist and Designer) looked both introspectively and extrospectively to inform their discussion about the effects of analogue and digital design methods.
The economic benefits of working smarter through the use of technology are seemingly apparent on face value – but does this value come at a cost that is out-weighed by the efficiencies that it achieves? Does technology actually assist in improving our bottom line – or does it just make us top heavy? Do design practices benefit from investing in the latest and greatest software, computers and printers, and the constant training of staff to keep up with the evolving technology of the day?
Access to the latest and greatest technology is increasing becoming more readily available. Anyone can now download a free 3D program or desktop publishing program online, and become a self-proclaimed designer overnight. With the help of relatively cost effective 3D printers, online tutorials and Wikipedia the instant ‘do-it-yourself’ designer has been born.
But what effect is this having on the design industry? How do we deal with this new arrival? Is this new design awareness and access to technology a threat or does it strengthen our industry? Does it open doors to new possibilities or close them? And how do we protect our credibility, integrity and intellectual property as professional designers in an increasingly blurred industry?
Leading the discussion, moderator Mike Malloy posed a series of questions to both the audience and the panelists to direct a well considered discussion aimed at investigating these concepts.
Q1: I don’t need to pay a product designer anymore – my 3D printer can print whatever I want to download for free!
Everyone can get things for free but what value to do they have? There is a concern among designers that users do not appreciate the effort and work behind design. However, it is in part the fault of the design community that people don’t value design, as it is the role of the artist, the designer or the architect to communicate the value of what they do. If designers do not engage with the general community and do not talk about why designers do what they do, then the value it has to peoples lives is not clear.
Q2: Do-it-yourself designers are the result of designers not differentiating themselves enough as professionals.
It is difficult for designers to differentiate themselves as professionals if they don’t carry a form of design accreditation. Because there is a ‘diversification of the designer’ it often means that designers do not have a professional body that they belong to. The design community is spawning new design disciplines everyday, and there is the potential now for every designer to have their own discipline – web design, sound design, data visualisation design. Traditionally, designers were supported, accredited and policed by their own professional design body, but today designers graduate from specialised courses and don’t fit into these traditional accreditation systems or bodies. Does professionalism mean belonging to this type of traditional collective? How do these new design disciplines belong in this traditional model?
Q3: Technology is increasing our mediocrity!
People always work with the technology they have to make extraordinary things, and the human creative spirit will still be there no matter what is at the designers disposal. From a product design point of view, designers are trying to create items that can be mass produced and used by everyone all of the time. However, there must be a complexity or challenge layered into that product for it to have longevity and for the user to have a greater affiliation with that item.
Q4: Technology allows you to work on any project, anywhere in the world for the same cost as a local designer.
Technology allows you to work on any project from anywhere in the world, design things from anywhere in the world and have it produced anywhere in the world. The quality of design, craftsmanship and the price point are issues that must be considered when working with technology and local designers.
Q5: Technology allows you to outsource the bits we don’t want to do overseas – which is cheaper and saves time.
If the price point is imperative and you need a cheaper alternative, then outsourcing overseas might be the most efficient route. The panel posed that there are other issues that come into play other than cost and outsourcing, including ethics and the environment.
Q6: More technology = less staff = greater profits.
Technology doesn’t necessarily mean less people, it can also mean greater people. It can also reduce the amount of time, and also increase output and profit. Technology allows designers to adapt, innovate, develop and become efficient depending on how the design tool is used.