It’s always been fascinating for me how a designed product can become the icon of a generation, or even the emblem of modern men. A product can become so familiar and prevalent that other designers would choose to somehow relate their product to that to get a larger market share. Which property of that product gives it such popularity and appeal? What composes the ‘identity’ of that object that makes us capable of instantly recognizing it?
When we encounter a product, we are not dealing with a single isolated object, but in fact with a vast background of traditions, habits and customs, an interconnected web of related products, equipments and above all the context within which the product is to be perceived. This network is so close to us and we are such excellent experts in recognizing these connections, that we usually don’t notice those relations explicitly. This understanding had a huge impact on the viewpoints I held regarding ‘Design’. I came to realize that other than quantifiable factors, which can easily be optimized by utilizing formal methods, the artistic elements of design are far more important for a product. Each product can create a bunch of potential familiarities for users which are obvious and at the same time impossible to be defined. This ‘indefinableness’ and ‘ambiguity’ of references is what makes a product become appealing. Just like the ambiguity of meaning in natural language that enables a poet to create poetry.
A classic and exceptional example of an iconic designed object, which has always inspired me, is Wassily Chair. What defines this chair, as its name implies, has been under direct influence of all its noteworthy contemporary events, and can therefore be said to have incorporated the spirit of its time. This chair is the offspring of the mutual influence of Destijl movement and Bauhaus modernism, delivered with aid of a most novel technology of its day- bending of tubular steel. Furthermore, it manifests the very essence of the antebellum idealism, which advocated transparency, lightness and functionalism.
I’ve come to believe that an outstanding design is that which is in harmonious accordance with the very spirit of its own time. For such a design to be possible, the designer, no doubt, ought to be conscious of his Zeitgeist and sensitive to the changes in his surrounding milieu. Furthermore, an outstanding design can reveal new ways of thinking and disclose new conceptions by changing not only how we use certain things, but changing what we expect from them to do.
A designed product can be broken down to its fundamental elements, deconstructed and the elements rearrange in a totally different order to yield another object, just the same as we do with words, to make or change a sentence.
A designed product is perceived as a whole when being used. This wholeness does not only include the object itself, but all other related entities, the history behind it as well as all the customs and habits of dealing with such a product. Our perception is build up on vast background of other activities and events. Regardless of the method we choose to decompose an object into its building element, we always destroy that wholeness, getting elements that no longer preserve the properties of the original product although those elements may still remind us of the original product.