Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Experience-Based Design: Designing Experiences

Experience-based design is, essentially, design focused on looking at the way the enduser engages or interacts with the design in question. Huh? Some may see it as simply "putting people first". I think that is a good way of seeing experience-based design - the human element. The UK's NHS (National Health Service), for instance, has instituted experience-based design, or service design, as its basis for innovation going forward. In doing so, the NHS can bring its focus in line with patients and the way they interact and experience the services they receive.

This design concept certainly has other applications, and if we look at the environments we each create for ourselves, hopefully we have employed the principle liberally. For example, think of the objects in your home that, no matter what, you would never part with (aside from the ones that cost a blooming fortune, but maybe that's just the way you roll). Why won't you part with them? They have sentimental value, perhaps. I know that the items I am most emotionally attached to have definite, recallable experiences that accompany them.

A friend and I were having drinks the other day when, in the context of a conversation about this very subject, he recalled the story of how he came about obtaining his and his partner's dining table. Said partner was shopping for a new dining table and found a fine one by Ralph Lauren, at an amazing price. It occurred to him that the table would be perfect in his parent's dining room, and they needed a new one. So he got the table for his parents, and decided to take theirs for his and his partner's (my friend) dining room. Well, it turns out that this table is the one his father, a very good artist of abstract painting, used as a work table. It's not a particularly gorgeous table, and it has intermittent splatters of paint all over it. Yet, as my friend pointed out, they love this table. Said partner's mother always finds it fascinating that they never cover it with a table cloth, and having dined at this very table myself, I can attest that to do so would be just wrong.

Bringing it back to experience-based design, my friend's table is the factor around which any attempt to redesign his dining room has to revolve. In the same fashion, that memorable Kholer commercial where the woman tells the designer, after he has established his very impressive bona fides as a designer, to design her new house around a faucet, plays on this principle.There is something about her experience with the design of that faucet that practically makes it a prototype. Based on the experience she has derived from that piece of design, the designer receives his directive.

A designer who intends to utilize experience-based design methodology must take into consideration: 1. The emotional value that the design will have for his client, very important in the area of healthcare, and 2. How will the design enhance their client's experience in living with it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Process -vs- Contest: Bravo's Work of Art - The Next Great Artist.

What makes a great artist? Is a great artist someone who creates consistent magnificence in one primary medium, or is greatness characterized by showing competence across a wide array of artistry? The newest contest show from Bravo Network, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, explores this very question, though indirectly. The primary focus for the show's producers is to maximize the entertainment value. Where Bravo is concerned, this usually means "drama". Given the array of characters cast, drama will be among the primary things on display, along with the art.

So what about the art? Off we go to the communal studio where the fun ensues. The first challenge for the 14 contestants, including a young artist with OCD (imagine that) and an overbearing, tactless performance artist, was to pair off and create a portrait of each other, loosely based on the self-portraits each artist produced. Seemed pretty straight forward, and for the most part, it was straight forward, with just enough of a glimpse of the artists' various temperments to intrigue viewers, allowing them to begin classifying characters along the usual lines: bitch, flake, freak, nicey nice, and general egomaniac.

Most of the drama takes place as the artists begin to get into their processes, begin creating, and eventually begin freaking out. Then the snarking begins as the artists themselves begin reacting to each others' mode of operation. When that included the OCD kid, Miles, using power tools and generally making a lot of racket, the dead-pan looks thrown at him by the other contestants were priceless. This is one of the basic elements of conflict that is omnipresent with these shows; the head-on collision of uncomplimentary creative processes can be tragic, but as with most car wrecks, everyone cranes their neck to see if there is any spilled blood.

When the judging commences, with the prerequisite coterie of heavy hitters as judges, the question that is the show's raison d'etre begins to get answered. But, it's only a beginning. Requiring a conceptual, abstract artist to produce a portrait is a trickier proposition than one might expect. As Indianapolis based artist and blogger of all things art, Scott Grow, observes, "I was left wondering, of all the abstract painters I know, how would ANY of them have faired in a portrait challenge and still remain true to their process and vision? How would an artist like Anish Kapoor or Richard Tuttle have faired?"

That question of staying true to process while adhering to what the rules demand will be asked over and over again of the artists on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Abstract artist and creative director for Q7 Associates, GK Rowe, points out that, " a good artist, when given rules to abide by, will immediately devise some way of bending the rules."

Rowe adds, "At the end of the day, the show is more about entertainment than art. But, it does raise awareness, and for all of us in the creative world, that is only a good thing. It gets people talking."

For me, I'm happy to see a program for mass consumption centered around art that is contemporary, abstract, and deserving of more exposure.

Image courtesy of Bravo Network