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Design for Life – reality TV for designers

24 January, 2010

I’ve always wondered about a reality-style show for designers. I pictured challenges of coming up with frameworks! and prototypes! and service concepts! in extreme periods of time! delivering new service experiences in airports! supermarkets! online! A combination of The Apprentice and Survivor. And now I’ve been watching exactly that with Design for Life with Phillipe Starck (Living, 9pm Fridays). Well kinda exactly. It’s been going three weeks now, and as I’m a reality-genre fan – not quite junkie, more causal user – it’s quite enjoyable.

A few things about the show (you can look up the actual show on BBC or wikipedia if you want – seems it started in Oct 09 but I don’t want to look up more in case I see something that gives it all away)

  • Starck is far less annoying and grating than I thought he would be based on my assessment of him from his Mondino images – I find him quite charming (but I am a francophile as well as design-o-phile)
  • One of the frustrations of the contestants is the broad briefs they’re getting. I had a design mentor that used to give equally wide briefs  – after about a year of frustration and ‘just tell me what you want’ I finally got it and then came to love those briefs and getting it right based on the right interpretation (which was whatever I shaped it to meet the intent of the request)
  • While the show is all about product design much of what is discussed is applicable and true for any design, however not necessarily to service design. Keenly taking notice of this to test my theory.
  • Production-wise less ‘design-y’ shots of contestants striding into shot a la Reservoir Dogs would help the show’s credibility
  • I do get a bit sick of the ‘young people are the future’ refrain – it’s nonsense because of the collaborative and sythesising process of design. A person’s age isn’t a pre-requisite or preference for genius/innovation/currency.

I’m not going to review each show – suffice it to say there are ‘characters’ – the richard hatch/Omarosa-style jerk has been shuffled off already (Starck’s insight was on the ball early there). There are the stylish ones, the crying ones, and so far it’s hard to spot the really talented ones because the show is the reality genre, therefore not a learning genre so revealing their or Starck’s design/creation process probably wouldn’t make for good tv. It is an interesting concept though, because the contestants aren’t delivering at this stage, and you get the impression Starke could say ‘Zats eet!’ and walk off. I hope it’s not contrived, and this failure of the contestants is not ‘made-for-tv’ so that the genius design wins the day in episode seven of eight.

It has made me think what my design be for the latest challenge would be – I forget the brief but the gist is ecological, everyday use, new, etc. DISCLAIMER: I am not, and never have been a product designer consequently I don’t sketch like one. So what follows is my artistic representation and wordy description of the product I have come up with:

Solitude Covers (hmmm, not so much on the name)

It can be so hard to get solitude these days – to block everything out – light, noise, people, thoughts. So hard to empty the vessel and think clearly. Solitude Covers are go anywhere sensory blockers that enable anyone who spends most of their time in public spaces – buses, trains, workplaces – to discretely block the world out to allow you to meditate, quiet the mind, re-charge and get back to the present.

They are a lightweight and soft rubber (potentially recycled) and fit under sunglasses so no-one can see you’re wearing them. The covers over the eyes block all light but don’t press on the eyelids. The earbuds that block noise could eventually have sound in short MP3 soundbites to aid meditation – ticking, or light music, or just a timer (10 mins, 20 mins, 30 mins) so you don’t have to look at a clock to see how long you’ve been out.

Why is this a good thing for the world? Why ecological? If our thoughts and actions impact the world, how many of them are intentional and conscious. Getting our own minds in order – the luxury of thinking nothing – enables us to make the space to think of something. Something meaningful. Something better.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 31 January, 2010 2:21 am

    Dr Oz describes exactly the setting I envisioned the Solitude Covers operating in – the 5min-escape-to-the-bathroom-meditation!

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