Designing marketable products is a special and precarious balance of needs and wants. It is a designer’s job to convince end users that they want to live with an object, that this object will somehow fill their need and making space for it is worthwhile. It is our job to reach consumers through a chain of marketers, manufacturers and retailers. We fill orders with so many caveats and redirected turns that sometimes it is hard to remember how projects are started.
As an industrial designer, simplicity is often the solution. The mantra “form follows function” is an inescapable easy rule of thumb. Eva Zeisal, a brilliant mid-century designer once tried to point out the silliness of this thought: “The designer must understand that form does not follow function nor does form follow a production process. For every use and for every production process there are innumerable equally attractive solutions.”
-- Eva Zeisel
Eva focused on beauty and form as an invitation to both the eye and the hand. Her pitchers seem to smile and bow, her serving platters gently reach out like a child absentmindedly searching for a mother’s hand. Her products invite interaction.
As designers we must remember where we stand. Designers are squeezed between our client’s needs, their buyers’ requirements, manufacturers abilities, and of course what the end users wants to buy. This position, this precarious balance between needs, wants and abilities can be both thrilling and frustrating to no end. Creating new products is electrifying; imagine holding a pen and paper and knowing that the next stroke may be the perfect curve to reach tens of thousands. At the same time, carefully studying material properties to understand how to improve or manipulate manufacturing processes to achieve that perfect effect is empowering. And not to be overlooked but walking into a big box retail chain and seeing products that started as sketches on your napkin that now span the globe, industrial design is its own reward.
Designing marketable products is almost a magical feat. The balance of needs and wants, of requirements and goals; it is a precarious and ever moving target. Are we designing beauty or are we fulfilling client’s dreams? When we can do both we reach perfection.