Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Design DVD

I subscribe to some of the netflix rss feeds, including the new releases one. Why do you think I have 1200 disks spread over half a dozen queues? So much neat stuff comes out. Anyway, I saw this Design disk (or, on netflix and couldn't resist. Got it and pushed to the top of the queue.
It was really neat, and very interesting for any designer, despite focusing on dimensional products. While they were all produced by the same people, in the same style, each product was a free-standing segment, so I'll briefly cover them each that way. The DS19, turns out to be the epitome of the Citroen, the one that I suspect all Americans hate, with the rear axle way at the back. But its still really interesting seeing how Flaminio Bertoni changed stodgy designs, and more or less invented some of the modern auto methods of modeling cars in clay, for example. Nice addressing of function, not just form, and problem solving (like chopping off the back of the car to fit it into typical garages, then hiding the odd shapes with lighting enclosures) and even production troubles. This one had no talking heads, presumably because all the designers are long dead, but it does ask for a bit of trust to the narrator.
The choice of the Bubble Club sofa and chair baffled me. Its as cool as cool can get, but iconic? Cheap? Maybe its just a U.S. problem. Did I forget to mention this is a French DVD? English language track works fine, and its beautiful, but the cultural references are sorta remote, and well, its a French film. Minor nudity, believe it or not. Anyway, Starck himself talking about the genesis of the Bubble Club is great. He even draws for us to explain things; I love seeing other people who cannot bring themselves to describe things without drawing.
The Bic pen segment was nothing special. Partly because no designer was involved. A bunch of engineers were set to task by Marcel Bich and that's it. Needed more exploration of why it looks like this, and how that's helped. Instead, it was treated as a marketing phenomenon in many ways, and didn't fit in like the others.
Akari lamps. I particularly enjoyed that I watched this on a TV flanked by two of the more organically-shaped ones. I always knew these as Noguchi lamps, as I learned about them in design school, so attributed them directly to the designer. Nice background on him, including some old interview footage where he talks directly about design emerging from sculpture. I'd always gotten a very simple and slightly cut-down version of the lamp-creation myth, but this went into some detail about revitalizing the lamp industry by making a modern design, which is good (interesting) in that it's about making a product that meets the needs of customers, the need for the manufacturer to be able to make it (and make money) and the overall needs of the economy to have good products and employ workers. Really outstanding footage (and description) of the manufacturing process. Apparently, they are all hand-made still.
The Hoover 150. Henry Dreyfus, of many other objects, like the model 500 phone and many Singer sewing machines, did well partly because he worked with the engineers and manufacturing side, so could make things actually work. Overall lots of discussion of the streamline style, with some nice socio-economic tie-ins, and fantasy designs as well as other real products. Nice cutaways and diagrams to show off how the previous model was mechanically very similar, and Dreyfus in large measure just improved it by encasing it, using new metallurgy to lighten it, and so on. Nice coverage of anthropometrics as well, since he was a trend-setter and had to make his own "average" man and women models (Joe and Josephine). The iMac suprised me. Sure, its clear and everything, but I still have an iMac DV in the other room, so it feels too proximate to judge in the sense of these other 50-70 year old items. I'm even using an original iMac keyboard at work every day. Yet, they do an okay placing it in the bio-design movement and cover why it is designed this way, and how this matters.
Some nice historical computer overview. Not just "punchcards came from weaving" but newly-shot film of such looms, and other punchcard machines, as well as some neat stock footage of all sorts of old computer equipment and its use. Lots of stock is used in all of these segments, but its French stock, so I had seen about 1% of it before. Hence, fresher than you'd think. Johnathan Ive is way younger and more cool than I had thought. And, he's English. I always thought he was American for whatever reason. Lots of good talking head video of him here. Ive says its translucent because its a celebration of the material (not mentioned, but see Good Design), but he mostly went on and on about the translucency giving a lush external finish; the "surface" changes all the time, baed on angle, time of day, etc. He seems to not buy ("fairly specious argument") that if you can see inside its less terrifying. Which contradicts some of what the narrator just said, which is funny.

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