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Veteran Times Writer

Contemporary Design Theory

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Every couple of weeks in lecture, Contemporary Design Theories and Practices, we have a quiz of sorts. We are given 20 minutes to write a one-page essay style response to a question the prof proposes. The question usually pertains to the previous weeks homework (readings) but can be answered by using at least three sources from any reading up until that point. This is the first one I submitted, for an 85% grade, and having only had four readings to choose from, selectively tied three together.

The readings are as follows, should you wish to look them up before reading my response.

Omit the Unimportant. Dieter Rams. Design Issues, 1, pp24-26. MIT press, 1984
1996. Charles Jencks. What is Post-Modernism?,. 4th ed. pp 50-54. John Wiley and Sons, 1996.
Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Robert Venturi. Pp 16-19. MOMA 1966

The prompt was: "How can Postmodernism consciously be used to inform design process?"

And so, my twenty minute response was this . . .

Postmodernism can be consciously used to inform the design process by utilizing the aspects of life in the postmodern world to influence "good design".

To look at problems and find solutions is the role of a designer, as Dieter Rams states "[d]esigners are critics of civilization, technology, and society" which tasks them with improving the world around them. Solutions are found when one looks at the solution overall, not becoming caught up in the problem. There are many negative aspects to the modern world, but Jencks insists if we " . . . focus on the positives . . ." good can come about. Over simplifying problems creates over simplified solutions, which are dehumanizing. In our global society, where everyone is connected all of the time, we need to be aware of the bigger picture. Venturi argues that when " . . . we oversimplify, we are doing so from a selfish place, characterizing it from a singular vantage point, our own interests."

The information age has created a society in which distinct class divisions no longer exist, even if the gap between wealth and poverty grows exponentially each year. The removal of these divisions serves a great purpose in connecting ourselves to those around us. Categorizing people serves also to dehumanize them, because it is an oversimplification in and of itself. Instead of focusing on ideas of either/or, postmodernism allows for inclusion. Conscious decisions of inclusion which allow for people to enjoy products overall instead of the isolation created through novelty and stylistic choices centered on absolute simplification of a problem.

Focus on human needs and desires, across all identities, allows for good design that remains timeless. Some simplification and abstraction is required in order to speak only to the user of an object, but not to the point of feeling forced and cold. Postmodernism's focus on the user is key to how it can be effectively used to inform the design process.

I hope that perhaps some are interested in these, and that maybe it can become a sort of series. At the very least, a BBS discussion would be quite lovely.



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