November 16, 2008

Biomimicry Institute

During last week’s discussion in class, we were introduced to interesting topics brought up from “the Better World by Design” conference. One of the many topics that drew my interest was Biomimicry. One of students who attended the conference briefly explained the Biomimicry Institute as a non-profit organization suggesting nature as a sustainable solution for solving design problems by asking “How Would Nature Solve This?”

"The more our world functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours, but not ours alone." This is Janine Benyus’ quote, which was on the website of the Biomimcry Institute.

The Biomimicry Institute educates people about nature as a model, measure and mentor. Biomimicry values that the nature world is an ideal model to solve human problems, a standard measurement to evaluate the sustainability of human innovations, and a constructive guide human can learn from. Based on how nature solves its many problems, Biomimicry predicts that human can use these designs and processes and will be able to create a more sustainable and healthier planet.

The Biomimicry Institute gathers the biological information and selects nature’s 100 best technologies that can be innovative and potential propositions in the field of manufacturing, architecture, health, energy, chemistry, agriculture, and, in a bigger sense, all the aspects of human living.

While they are collaborating with different companies to put these projects together, they’re also focusing on educating people. Many designers seek design answers from nature and many designs have been inspired by nature. So now they know how important nature is as a source of information. The idea of nature as a means of solving problems is a new way of thinking. The Biomimicry Institute is very passionate about sharing formal and informal teachings about the science of learning from nature. The institute has been developing an educational system for all ages, for all subjects, and by using all methods. For example, the system will explain how nature deals with certain problems or topics, showing particular examples from nature. That will illustrate the case studies of the technology inspired by nature. The information will be modified then distributed to students K-12 or to designers, engineers, and scientists for professional use.

I found this very fascinating how they not just collect, produce, and put information out there but also actually looked for practical ways to reach people with that information. The institute envisions Biomimicry to be embedded as a rich resource in education, research, and business and it will eventually change human perspective and the importance/value of the world.

for more information

November 9, 2008

Humanitarian Design

During my foundation year, I was lucky to have 2D class with Lee Dejasu. One of projects from his class was to express the word “disguise”. So, I decided to make my Korean friend, Grimm Lee, to wear my clothes, glasses, cap, and backpack and sent her to the class for me. I did not mean to skip the class. It was out of curiosity if anybody would notice that she is not me. Surprisingly, only four people including the professor noticed. Even more surprisingly, Grimm accidently interacted with some of my classmates during another classmate’s presentation.

I came to U.S. when I was sixteen. After I came to U.S., I struggled to find who I am. I was often categorized and stereotyped as an Asian or Korean. People assumed my personality based on how I look. I was no more than just Korean girl. That was when I started drawing which did not need any word to explain. Through drawings, I told people stories of who I am. Through paintings, I put things on the canvas what I really care. For me, art was a tool to find my voice. Also, art was a way to communicate with people.

I applied to RISD as a painting major student. After a semester at the design school, I decided to change my major painting to ID. I had very little knowledge about what design was. (I still do not know everything about design) The major difference, I found, between fine arts and designs were that fine art is more self-expressive and self-discovery then design. Design tends to tell stories of others, rather than the author. Especially, industrial designers have the most opportunity of telling stories of various types of people, such as stories of the rich, the young, the old, the poor, and the unhealthy. (Later, I found this process is specifically called user-based design.) I think Industrial designers’ job is to tell stories of others’ needs through products, services, and system. Their products, services, and systems have specific purposes to satisfy people’s need and represent the need to other people.

Whole thing about what I think of design is might not related to humanitarian design that I am supposed to write about. Here is my opinion about designers who are afraid of designing for user groups from extremely different cultural and economic backgrounds, such as refuges in their world countries. Without totally understanding circumstances and needs, designers might create nothing helpful for people in the third countries. However, designers should still keep working on developing humanitarian design. As I said, design is not just to satisfy the user group. Design conveys other people that there are people who desperately need this products, services, or system. Design makes the world aware of this need.

During Dr. Bruce Becker’s presentation, he mentioned that many products do not meet the users’ demand well enough to solve their problems or do not fit into the challenging environment. Even throwing out the unsatisfying products, designers do the jobs of making other people and other designers to think realistically about what people in the third countries really lack. With continuous efforts, designers will slowly improve their products to solve the problem.

November 2, 2008

Fragrance and Gender

“What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No.5, of course”

Almost everyone knows this is one of famous quotes of Marilyn Monroe, American singer and actress, sex symbol, and Hollywood icon. For the people who know of Marilyn Monroe but not Chanel No.5, it is the first fragrance of Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel in 1921. As Andy Warhol chose Chanel No. 5 as cultural icon, it is often considered as “the world’s legendary fragrance”. One static said it is sold world-wise every 55 seconds.

Wearing nothing else but Chanel No. 5, how much can it sound sexier and more exotic? However, what if Marilyn Monroe said she wears Georgia Armani Acqua Di Gio instead of Chanel N.5, would it sound still attractive and appealing? If your girlfriend wears the cologne that your father wears, or if your boyfriend wears the fragrance that your grandmother uses, would you be irritated or disturbed? If so, why?

Selecting a perfume scent is an act of expressing an individual’s taste. Because of differences in body temperatures and odors, no perfume will smell exactly the same on any other people. Perfume itself theoretically should not be able to speak for users’ private, subjective, self-created modern self. But why is there a subconscious expectation that women should smell like flowers while men smell citrusy and musky?

Over thousand years, people have used a bottle of fragrance for the same purpose, either to mask unpleasant body odor or enhance naturally pleasant body odor. When the perfume became widespread in the monarchy, France’s king Louise XIV was known as “the perfume king” because of his love of floral scent. Bowles filled with dried flowers were placed throughout the palace to freshen the air. Clothes, furniture, walls, and tableware were sprayed with floral scent. He even required his court members to wear the fragrance every day. At this point, fragrance did not discriminate feminine and masculine but rather royal or common.

After the introduction to synthetic chemicals, perfumes could be mass produced since the late 1800s. Synthetic compound provides fragrance that cannot be found in nature, such as, linalool, coumarin, and orchid scent. Modern day perfume can capture any scent from plant sources, animal sources, and synthetic sources. Various processes of manufacturing perfume allowed average consumer to own a bottle of perfume as a common use product in the United States. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, designers entered the market with their signature bottle of perfume. With online retailers and market places, perfumes become more and more accessible to people. Even with diversity and accessibility of perfume, they are categorized as men and women in the department and online stores. Women fragrance uses colors of pink, red, yellow, gold, white, light blue, silver. The description of top selling women fragrances always happen to include the words; feminine and floral, sometimes, classic and sweet. On the other hand, black, navy blue, grey, brown, and green are commonly used for cologne and its bottles. According to men’s fragrance advertisements, men should smell fresh and woody, an ideal masculine smell of men.

The scents, bottles, advertisements, marketing, and branding evokes that feminine women and masculine men are the desirable and ideal in the American society. The stereotyped-gender fragrance creates fantasies and icons for one sex and even for the opposite sex. Their limited variety of choices confine consumers to be forced into the expected image of male and female gender roles of today's society,

October 26, 2008

Design Instinct

Have you ever wished of having longer fingers to play piano well, wider chest to swim faster, or sensitive tongue to taste better wine better? I wish I had milky skin instead of my dark skin that I got from my mother. When my relatives look at my childhood picture and my mother’s childhood picture, they can’t tell who is who because of our dark skin. My relatives sometimes get confused a picture of me in my childhood with a picture of my mother in her childhood, because of our dark skin. I also have my father’s flat feet that my grandfather has, and my grand-grandfather had. If I walk for a long timetoo long, my feet become swollen and my knees start acheaching. Who I am as a biological human beingBiological characteristics of me cannot be determined by me myself or even my parent who made gave birth to me. Whether I like it or not, I cannot hide from the fact that I am comprised of a unique combination of my ancestors' genes.

When people a person dies, theythe person leave something behind thema legacy for their his or her spouses and children offspring to cherish and remember the one who is gonehimself. It may be documents about one’s his honor and achievements, treasures and valuable assets gathered insaved over one’s his life time, simply precious memories about himselfof one’s being, or physical characteristics, like I mentioned in the beginning, known as biological inheritance;: heredity. Based on what has been passed down to our generation from parental generation, itThis biological inheritance sometimes becomes strength and advantage for one’s survival to live a life or weakness and disadvantage to confront.

Gregor Johann Mandel is the father of the genetics. He was an Augustinian monk and scientist who was eagerly interested in the nature of inheritance in plants. With some knowledge in biology, he first experimentedHe began his experiment with ornamental plants to find out whether plants are designed to have certain characteristics influenced by environments or parents. This little experiment with ornamental plants proved that the plants’ offspring gain obtains certain traits of from its parents. The Pplants’ offspring is not affected or influenced by its environment. This simple experiment originated the idea of heredity.

With a vague idea of about heredity, Mandel went into onto the a more developed investigation on heredity, for this time, with pea plants. From 7 years of breeding thousands of pea plants, recording the connection of traits between offsprings and parents, and statically analyzing the results of the data, Mendel cracked the code ofor the basic laws of heredity in 1863. The fundamental facts of the Mendel’s law isis that when from the two units of heredity (now called to be genes), the parental generation transmits only the dominant half of its hereditary factors to each offspring. These factors that decide heredityThe genes do not combine but passed down as a discrete factor. Offspring generation will have many different combinations of heredity factors from their parental generation.

Another modern scientific attempt to understand inherited traits through human generations is Human Genome Project (HGP), which started in 1990. Scientists identified about 25,000 genes in human DNA and determined the sequence of chemical base pairs of human DNA. The entire map of 3 billion DNA sequence explains how genes control the functions of the human body. With this information, scientists hoped to be able to find the genes that cause particular illnesses. Even furthermoreFurthermore, scientists saw this map not only as a method to diagnosis diagnose the certain illness, but also a new way of treatmentsto treat for genetic illness.

As a quick experiment to find out one’s genetic sequence, scientists use DNA microarray, also known as DNA chip. Thousands of probes are laid on the flat solid DNA chip, usually made out of silicon or glass. Samples of one’s DNA can be easily compared to the synthetic DNA target embedded on the chip. This is a popular method to diagnosis diagnose the development of any mutation in a gene. Up to 260,000 genes can be investigated on a single DNA chip. Because of its simple and fast process, genetics geneticists and scientists predict that average patients will become accessible to theis DNA chips at their family physicians’ offices in the near future.

Scientists have tried to identify exact genes that cause particular diseases and seek have sought to apply genetic treatments on these disorders. The field of genetic medicine, which dealing deals with the process of screening one’s DNA, diagnosis diagnoses any illness with the information of one’s the DNA, and prevents or treatsment of hereditary condition, has become more improved and investigated with the development of computer-based technology. In the future, genetic treatment on defects and illnesses will be applied even before the one’s birth, and doctors will be able to cure newborn babies who have hereditary disorders, such as, cystic fibrosis, haemophilia, sickle-call anemia, phenylketonuria, Down syndrome, and cancer.

The treatment involved with direct manipulation of one’s genes is called genetic engineering. This is a direct application of the study of genetic medicine. Genetic engineering uses the technique of molecular cloning which produces the ideal protein by changing the DNA sequence in the gene. At this point, idea of genetically modified organisms is limited to plants and very few animals. Scientists foresee that, in the future, the manipulation of gene, or “designer gene”, will be available to human with advanced technology and a vast amount research. Critics argue that this the modification of gene will bring controversial issuescontroversy that modifying genes is wrong because it is doingintrudes the work of God, ruins ecosystems, and might has possibilitymay even to lead to the society in which that genetic perfection is the ultimate ideal.

If, in the future, we will reach the point of redesigning defective gene to an ideal state, does it mean that even human beings can become a design subject matter of design? Going back to the start of this essay, wWill we the society reach the point where I can be likeeasily say, “I’d like to do want to redesign my flat feet?”, instead of buying a well-designed pair of sneakers?. Is design instinct embedded deeply in all human being? If the heredity of one’s being can be genetically designed, is it because our design instincts tells us that everything that has problem imperfection needs to be solved and fixed?

Industrial designers say design is a problem solving process. Industrial designers design products, system, service and such, etc to benefit human beings and theirits living environment. Then will this idea of designing human genes lead industrial designers to a new way to approach to make one’s life better? Or is this idea too daring to talk aboutbe discussed because it treats human beings as artifacts and disregard the dignity of man? Then what makes boundaries to industrial designers to be involved? IndustrailIs industrial design is limited only to satisfy human being's secondary needs? What will be the role of the industrial designers in the future?