Sunday, November 25, 2007

Design on wheels

Tokio Showroom: Where is Japan going and what’s the future of the automobile?

That’s the title of last week’s Motor Magazine article article about the 40th Tokio Showroom, a showcase of the latest in car design.

Where’s colombian design when it comes to shaping the future of mankind? Well, I’ll let the link speak for itself (Beware it’s in spanish).

All the best!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Four Design Influences

As designers we pull from different sources to build our aesthetic awareness, our “visual culture” as a friend of mine used to call it. Here are four sources of design inspiration that I think can influence the way designers create, for the better.


Saturday night, a concert in Bogotá, the Iceland queen, Björk. She opens up the concert with a costume that made her look something like a mix between a mushroom and a jelly fish.

I was listening to the music and comparing the beats to the movements she made when she danced, how she expressed the music visually, with her body and how that connected with the stage design and the whole production including the other musicians and the different elements that were placed onstage that made for the visual experience of the performance. It was simply amazing.

There was another time in my life when this was very palpable. When I was in high school I had an art teacher. She once played some music for us in a boom box and asked us to draw what we felt. The results were rather interesting and varied, depending on the person. While some people drew in a linear form, others went back and forth with their shapes, up and down, changed colors.

Music has mountains and valleys, punches, speed, tone, it’s big or small, it’s very obvious or subtle, it can be deep, steep or narrow. Music can become something visual, something that has a shape, a size, even a color. And if it’s something visual, then it can be used to create design.


The other day I was watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on TV and he was visiting this restaurant in Spain, called “El Bulli”, where his chef and owner Ferran Adriá has a very unique proposal to gastronomy.

It turns out that Adriá and his team believe in innovation in both the dishes they make as well as how they present them, that’s why they work on a lab a great portion of the year, as if it was a chemistry project.

His team includes an industrial designer who has two functions: One, to come up with the symbols that identify the internal processes in the lab and two, to come up with the best crockery and the best cutlery to present the different courses.

How cool is that? Can you imagine working as a designer for something that is not obviously design related?

Check out El Bulli’s website and go to the section called “1983-2005 general catalogue” and see the amazing shapes, the innovating dishes, the way it’s all presented, not only as an aesthetic proposal, but as a culinary experiment, using ingredients and combinations that nobody has dared to use.


This is, of course, an obvious one. How has art impacted design? What a big question! And nowadays you often can’t draw a line between art and product design. Who is to say that an iPod is not artful? And remember the Bauhaus? Where’s the line there?

To me, art is anything, any medium that is used to express human emotion. Would you agree with me if I said that product design (and any kind of design, for that matter) is influenced by emotion?

How does an art piece make you feel? And how do certain design pieces make you feel? Is there a connection? What elements can we take from art, to apply to design?

Other designers:

Here’s another obvious one, but do young designers actually take the time to research other designers in the world?

When I was in college, we reviewed the work of French Philippe Starck. Little did I know that the guy was still alive! I thought that since many of his pieces were modern design icons, maybe he was already dead. Silly me…

Anyway, this is a French designer that has designed some of the most representative pieces of modern industrial design, from culinary objects, to entire hotels! And there are tons of pictures of his designs on his website. This is a great source of inspiration, to see how design problems can be solved with ease and style.

The point here is to research, to find out what who the big designers are right now! What they’re doing, what trends they’re creating! And then ask ourselves, what do I bring to the table?

There are many other sources of influence for designers. As Latin American designers, are we tackling on all of them? Are we researching, acquiring visual culture? What other influences can you suggest? Books, movies, local culture, history?

All the best!