Poetically Approaching Design

Taking a poetic approach to design enables a designer to have more freedom by using the creative and conceptual qualities of art to flesh out insightful or philosophical meanings and connecting this to the functionality of design. A designer can create a product that has a multitude of meanings whilst still remaining a commercial product. Through creating designs that are thought provoking, designers are able to express their perceptions of society with the attitude of an artist. Kenya Hara in Designing Design poetically highlights the difference between art and design by saying ‘the essence of design lies in the process of discovering a problem shared by many people and trying to solve it. (Hara, K. 2007) meaning that design originates within societal problems. After discovering these common problems, designers can attempt to create solutions through innovation. Comparatively, Hara states that art “is an expression of an individuals will to society at large, one whose origin is very much of a personal nature, so only the artist knows the source of his own work.’ (Hara, K. 2007) This suggests that art is a form of personal judgment, and that it develops from the artist’s personal taste and distaste. Keeping in mind, poetic design is about blurring the lines between art and design. It is finding beauty and emotion the ‘poet’ feels is necessary to share with their audience that they can create objects with eloquent characteristics, whether that be through metaphors, satire or challenging norms. The nature of being a poetic object is to awaken something.

Anniversary Matches, Kaoru Mende

Anniversary Matches by Kaoru Mende highlights the strong relationship humans have with fire. Mende says, “I was interested in designing the relationship between people and light” which is interesting to consider, because in a society that is so heavily influenced by artificial light, he manages to find a way to make natural light so artistically engaging. The matches arouse us to pay attention to fire again, despite living in a modern society filled with electricity and gas. A match in this current society is a fairly insignificant object because of its superficiality. However, by finding small natural twigs and dipping the top in a red combustible substance to mimic the traditional match head, Mende creates an allusion to regular matches. The raw twig material and the minimalistic nature of the product makes the audience more aware of what a match really is and where it might come from. By creating this awareness, Mende allows the audience to reflect on the relationship we have with nature. How we take something so unique and beautiful and turn it into something economical, and by ‘designing for efficiency, economy or commerciality discounts the importance of our need to engage aesthetically, emotionally and philosophically.’ (Gaul, C. n.d)This is a significant issue for the creative world as big companies and businesses try to monopolise society with cheap products that are mass produced and end up in landfill. A final touch Mende has added to this design is the packaging. It is very minimal and plain aside for a few sentences that describe when the match “should” be used, such as weddings, birthdays, graduations and the like. There is a level of ‘cheesiness’ that this adds however it is also quite poetic in the sense that it can be seen as a final role given to the twig before returning to the soil.

Straw Straw, Yuki Iida

Straw Straw by Yuki Iida demonstrates the unnecessary need for synthetic materials, and their un-sustainability. By taking the wheat straw and simply using it as a straw suggests that traditional methods can prove just as useful and functional as contemporary. Normal straws are a one-time-use tube that is more often than not thrown in the rubbish, however, Iida describes Straw Straw, saying ‘[it] has no waste product in the shape itself or in its actual existence. (Core77, 2008) This highlights the relationship that humans have with the natural world. With gentrification and globalism at such a high rate there seems to be a disregard for nature. Hence artists and designers like Iida create products that advocating less energy consumption and remind the user of the importance of environmental protection. The originality of a straw has been completely lost because of all the excess functions that have been added such as bendy sections or a spoon end. By stripping the straw back, it removes the trademarks, removes all unnecessary processing and colour, leaving just the function. In doing so, it reminds people of the beauty of raw materials, colours and textures. Muji judge, Jasper Morrison said that it is ‘obvious to the point of stupidity’ which is what makes the design poetic, in the sense that there is no real innovation. Straw Straw is a design that epitomises ‘poetic design’. The art-like nature in its minimalist design is beautiful; the ability to easily mass-produce the product proves its ‘designerly’ qualities. Thus with the combination of both worlds, Iida has constructed a beautiful product which is soaked in thoughtfulness and elegance.

Geta, Shuhei Hasado

Geta by Shuhei Hasado directly connects us with the natural world. Hasado has taken a traditional Japanese ‘Geta’ sandal and appropriated them with the concept of haptic feedback in a way that is very inviting to the audience. He attempts to realign our focus to the earth and our natural surroundings and away from technology because, as Peter Pau states “Humans don’t experience the world directly, but always via a mediating artefact which helps to shape a specific relation between humans and world”. This beautifully harmonious series showcase a variety of textures like moss, grass, wood, white ash, twigs and pine needles that are all organic and natural, and appeal to our sense of touch. Hasado has prioritised form over function and made these with the intention of them being an art piece, rather than a wearable product. However he has created them in a style that creates a desire in the audience to ‘want’ to wear them. The shoes are designed to make the user feel like they are not wearing shoes, but actually walking through nature. This design approach reimagines the functionality of a regular shoe and, instead of separating us from these natural textures, is almost passively forcing us to reconnect with this feeling. He believes that this is necessary if we want “to improve the quality of our lives we need to return to at least some of our origins.”(Hasado, S. n.d.) Hasado has creatively bridged the gap between technology and feeling by developing these tactile textures that allow the sensory nerves on our feet to return to their roots.

The overall value in taking a poetic approach to design is that the designer has much more freedom to execute their products. They are able to comment on societal issues that they feel need to be voiced, because as Kenya Hara says “design refers to the will to interpret the meaning of human life and existence through the process of making things… it is not self expression, it originates in society” (Hara, K. 2007). The products I have chosen to explore have a strong focus on environmental issues and the movement of society away from the natural world. Using the methodologies of art, these designers create products that “Non artists commune with [art] by coming up with interesting interpretations of art, appreciating it, commenting on it, and using art for an intellectual purpose.” (Hara, K. 2007) the ambiguity behind these products is what allows the audience to speculate and derive their own meanings from. Many artists currently tend to focus on environmental protection because of the rate at which humans are destroying the earth. I believe that it is necessary for companies like ‘Muji’ to keep encouraging sustainable designs for the future, or our once natural creation will become materialised and into a ‘synthetic’ state, if it not already has. These examples are all quite playful and fun, though still very compelling and in my opinion are designed in a way that makes the audience feel wasteful. Therefore the value in taking a poetic approach to design is the extra opportunity it gives the designer to be creative. Using this creativity to develop conceptual meaning behind the product, that engages the audience on a deeper level and awakens the object to speak a voice of its own.

Jordan Goren

Reference List

Core77, 2008, MUJI Award 03: Winners Announced, viewed 2 December 2016, http://www.core77.com/posts/11963/muji-award-03-winners-announced-11963

Erard, M. 2015, See Through Words, viewed 29th November 2016, https://aeon.co/essays/how-to-build-a-metaphor-to-change-people-s-minds

Gaul, Christopher. N.d. The Art of Everyday Things

Hara, K. 2007, Designing Design, Springer

Shuhei Hasado, n.d. syuhei.jp –Profile, Japan, viewed 2 December 2016, http://www.syuhei.jp/en_profile/

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