Designers are complicated, each of them multi-dimensional worlds unto themselves. Their approaches, skills and techniques, their choice of materials and areas of practice and expertise, their obsessions, stylistic flourishes, strengths and weaknesses, all make them each unique and different from each other.
From a designer who once offered the opportunity to experience a volcano in your living room, to a designer who re-imagines your minor quirks as beautifully visualised data, to the designer who, among other things, repurposes robots to work as cocktail mixologists, here’s the first part of a series of short documentary films directed by Christian Svanes Kolding, created as conversation starters to celebrate the spectacular diversity of designers working today. Kolding is a filmmaker, writer and artist from Copenhagen, currently living in New York.
This series starts with the “extreme experience” designer, Nelly Ben Hayoun, followed by a profile of the information designer Giorgia Lupi, and then concludes with a brief portrait of Eddie Opara, the innovative graphic designer and partner at Pentagram.
Coming into contact with Opara’s work, one is immediately struck by its complexities and contradictions. Rigidly repeating geometric patterns float in a digital ether, though designs based on organic forms from textiles that are thousands of years old. Then there are also highly sophisticated robots put in service just to serve cocktails at parties. Opara’s approach is built on multiple iterations and rapid prototyping. Design is labour, the end result of obsessively working on a solution until it is as good as it can be.
The three films hint at how the role of the designer is primed for expansion while they also shed light on the way practices from other disciplines influence the approach to design.
Produced for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), each two-minute segment surveys their more recent work, as well as the philosophies, which guide their understanding of their role as designers.
What they all have in common is a multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving, complemented by an enthusiastic desire to engage their audiences, as well as other designers, and a joyful curiosity that is expressed through the way they each see and live design.
As the films themselves testify, these three designers take on responsibilities beyond what was once considered traditional: not only are they artists, architects, filmmakers, inventors, musicians, and directors, but they are cultural commentators, anthropologists, and not least, entrepreneurs and business leaders with an eye towards making a greater contribution to society.
Eddie Opara spoke at Design Indaba Conference 2012. Watch his full talk.