Innovation and Cultural Point of View, the Future of American Industrial Design

Industrial Design is problem solving. Let’s just get that out there right from the start. Without the search for the solution to the problem, we’re not designing, we’re making art.
That said, the future of American Industrial Design is going to live, not just in how we approach problem solving, but in how we choose to frame the question we use to solve the problem at hand. Specifically, I’m responding to the view expressed here from Scott Klinker where he suggests:
“…we should see the evolution of a much more advanced discipline: one that has absorbed the skills and spirit of ID, but climbs the food chain to tackle problems of greater complexity and significance. One with x-ray vision to see through objects for their emerging patterns of culture, business and technology, and with a keen intuition—willing to go beyond rational techniques in order to propose new culture. It should have an enormous vocabulary to shape rhetoric, a big heart to elevate daily experience into something more like art, and above all, a brilliant point of view.”
I’m sure that I’m not interested in seeing Industrial Design as a discipline evolve into a laser-eyed group of market ethnographers and demographers searching through niche groups to try to pin point what it is that they’re looking for to complete them culturally.
Of course I understand that this is largely a semantics argument, but it is a distinction that I feel is important to make. Maybe an object doesn’t need to reflect what our cultural point of view is, but rather what it should be, or at least what we want it to be. Industrial Designers are more than simply commodities makers.
This is an Occupy Industrial Design type of view being expressed here, I think we should be looking for solutions to problems that actually help 99% of the population, instead of overly focusing on the 1% of consumers who buy “designed items”. There are real issues at hand here in this country, and I personally don’t think that the whole of the ID community need be spending their time on wine totes, hipster underwear, fancier import cars, and more niche consumer junk.
Maybe, just maybe, I don’t need another totem to express who I am as a consumer.
Here’s a Cultural Point of View, let’s work on making a culture that will not only create but will also value a product made with less material that will be owned for 50 years. There are 7 billion people on this planet who are almost all consuming these commodities that we’re supposed to be designing. The least we can do is to design something worth keeping and using.

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