Who wants to be a copycat?
It was raining this morning, so I got off the bus at my normal rainy-day spot – outside the Supreme Court. I get off here to see the rain droplets falling onto the shallow pools in front of the building. They make the most amazing shapes and textures that vary with the light and the breeze, or the intensity of the rain. It's a little bit of architecture interacting with nature that makes my heart skip with joy each time I see it. If I was going to build a shallow pool in my yard, an image of this would definitely be tacked to my inspiration board.
Designers are like this. We are like magpies that observe and store everything we see around us from architecture, to 1960s chair designs, to the latest music system designs, to the hand-drawn 'free manure' sign on the roadside, to strange metal instillations in the gallery. All these experiences (some more hazy than others) get stored away, then consciously (and often subconsciously) drawn upon when we get a new brief. We sift, disassemble, adapt, explore and evolve these into something new. But there are three things that stop us from just 'copying': (1) the ethical/legal issues – which are givens, (2) the design journey gives you such a euphoric creative 'buzz', so why, would you kill the funnest bit of the job?, and (3) appropriation - as each clients needs are unique, the 'appropriate' outcome is always different. You start with experiences, combine these with research, and go on a journey which takes you to another totally different place.
For example, if I was to design a bridge, I couldn't stop myself from being influenced by Thomas Heatherwick's Paddington Bridge – which changed my perception of what a drawbridge should look like. However, if it was to be in a garden centre, it could become a bud opening up, and petals that fan out across water. Or if it was a bridge for a kids' kindergarden, it would be like a caterpillar, curling up (with seats on it - so the kids could catch a ride, like at a fair). By the end it could be something totally different. Yes I admit it, I love the process of being inspired, then going through a journey to transform everything into something new – be it with textured paper that shimmers like water drops, beautiful typography on a screen, or an image on a shoe box. It's a thrill.
It gives a new meaning to recycling and sustainable design, doesn't it?
Time to go to lunch and gather some more experiences...
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Paul Bloom: The origins of pleasure:
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