Objects & Installations
Design and the Public Interior
Bezalel papers on architecture, issue #1
The interior is no longer private. As home-made movies and photos became in recent years a public domain, fed by technological developments in bandwidth and encoding, as well as web 2.0 platforms, supporting the exposure and distribution of such visual materials, the privacy not only of our life, but of our most intimate spaces, has transformed into a shared property. While aiming to focus on the main character, these photos, video blogging, lip-syncing movies, and what not inadvertently expose, by being framed, the settings in which these scenes take place. In the case of home videos, it is the domestic environment that is being delivered to an increasing number of people.
Design is traditionally presented as a linear process. That is especially true in the case of furniture design for interior spaces. It begins with a designer’s work with a producer, translated into manufacturing, and since the beginning of the previous century, moves on into representation – a setting or an image, aiming to seduce passive consumers. In this conception , the process ends in representation, an environment that is hyper-real, an advertisement. Yet the introduction of the interior into the public sphere challenges and questions such a process. For the first time in a while, the interior as it is used is reflected back at the designers, manufacturers, marketers and other consumers. Supposed linearity is now broken and replaced by a system of feedback, in which it is not the idealized use of a piece of furniture, but rather its concrete presence and placement in reality that can serve as to base the groundwork for public discussion on design, its possibilities of use and its potential adaptation.
Consequently, the designer is now forced to work within a different chain of production, and is required to prepare his work for the inevitable dialog with his consumers and their real environments. The focal point of a designed product is no longer singular and based on carefully directed representative media, but scattered, being partly in the hands of the designer, partly in the platform which markets its capabilities (which, in the case of online platforms of commerce offer completely different capabilities, resolutions of representation, feedback systems, and communication channels), and partly in the hands of consumers, in their own settings, contextualization, and re-contextualization of the use of a product.
In order to adapt to these new consumers, the design process has to become more complex and more in flux. The terms of new media – interface, platform, and digestible 2d representation, become necessary in the early stages of design in order to set an understandable language and clear boundaries for the dialog. Exposing and debating the interior direct a relational approach to the production of its elements, aimed more at the creation of environments that can differentiate and allow for interpretations on one hand, while maintaining quality and aesthetics on the other. At that point, the debate reflects back into the public sphere and becomes, perhaps, worthwhile, as a voice is given to the user who shares his interior.
In order to create such openness, a simplified representation of a design is perhaps necessary in order for the designer to appeal to the most common denominator and foster an understandable dialog. As this dialog is set in a two dimensional environment (the screen), it seems crucial that this consideration be integrated already in the early stages of the process. Necessarily, such integration directs the aesthetic of a product, as it relies on a clear and simple interface. Innovation is called for in such an aesthetic, as the tools of design must become simpler – a toolbox with limited options that can offer open-endedness and an understanding, through representation, of how the final object might look like. The chain is now reversed as representation appears before design, asking product designers to be more, or to collaborate in, multidisciplinary teams: programmers, graphic designers, web designers and manufacturers.
Consumers become a power in this new understanding of design as they affect not only programmatic, decorative and contextual considerations, but also an aesthetic language by the act of exposing themselves. They, in fact, transform the design process, into being just that – a continuous and exposed process rather than one which ends with a designed piece. Products and interiors are created through a relentless correspondence of interpretation and reinterpertaion, while the language set for this dialog takes command over final results. These dynamics, communicated online through voluntary exposure, offer not only a decentralized process of design, but also an ongoing documentation of that process, of a product’s new evolutionary route.