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Beyond Design

Weng Xinyu is a Chinese product designer who is running his design studio, YUUE, in Berlin.

I knew his name from a blog that introduced one of his projects last year, and that's why I was very interested in his talk. A very attractive idea that he gave out in the talk is the usefulness and the uselessness of design. The uselessness of design can be defined in both the negative and the positive way. For the former one, he exampled the idea, "design pollution", which was put forward by Jasper Morrison that too many useless products are produced nowadays. For the latter, he introduced his idea of merging the thought of contemporary art in the design. He used to think that product design was a way to meet the demands of people, but he found it may easily become the catalyst for consumption. This will finally result in the severer design pollution. Therefore, if the design itself can convey the concept as what artwork does, then the design process will be leading by the attitude of the designer rather than the market. Furthermore, he introduced the idea of "speculative design" which brought forward by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby. Basically, the speculative design is a way to think and solve a problem, and it is more like a design for the future. For example, James Chambers designed a series of products by supposing that what if David Attenborough did not go to make documentaries but becoming a designer, how would he put his interest in nature and animal in his design. In a certain extent, I think the speculative design is like a way of doing fine art. As many artists who are doing the projects of global warming, pollution or cutting edge technologies, they are trying to realise the future of human as well.

Environmental protection is a high-frequency term that we usually talk about in our lives. Especially after we heard the severe forest fire happened in South America, the alarm of protecting nature boomed out again. This talk reminded me of the final project that I did in the foundation course. It is a big plastic box with smaller boxes installed inside. I questioned myself, what else can it do out of the show? The function of it could only be performed in a designated space, like in a gallery. Out of the exhibition, it then becomes as a useless piece, being in a dilemma that where to store it. Weng's talk provided another perspective to review the relation between art and design. From his point of view, he placed his designs in the art context, which were expressing his thought and attitude through them. Therefore, from my perspective, can I create the work by environmental-friendly materials or as something that can interact with people in daily life? That would be a big thing for me to try in college.


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