Saturday, August 1, 2009

thoughtfully appealing design

This is a photograph of Tord Boontje’s Rough and Ready (DIY) chair design made from recycled and repurposed wood pallets that took me a weekend to make. According to Boontje, since 1998, 30,000 chair plans have been given away—this plan was from his website. By the way, the chair is amazingly comfortable and strong. Photograph by Doug Burg, copyright © 2009 David Versluis.

The work of product designer, Tord Boontje is unconventional but very thoughtfully appealing. Boontje is known for, among other things, his DIY aesthetic and humanizing Rough and Ready furniture collection made from scrap pieces of wood from the lumberyard. Zöe Ryan in her essay, Graphic Thought Facility: Resourceful Design, states that Boontje has summed up his approach as follows: “I find it hard to relate to the prevalent plastic slickness and preciousness. With this furniture I want to develop my ideas about objects we live with, ideas about a utilitarian approach towards the environment we live in.” Disconcerted, Boontje has said, “society has lost the ability to make things and all we do is consume.”

In response to the abnormal affects of consumption are current signs and trends that conscientious businesses, progressive organizations and designers are creating a culture of discernment, responsibility, and fairness. While some designers have produced products such as posters, t-shirts and other things to advocate a cause or convey a viewpoint, others are exploring and discussing the spirit and mind of design.

A compassionate heart is the biblical correlation of justice and shalom—the concern for a flourishing creation and a proper Christian cultural response. Let us think of design as an act of benevolence, stewardship, worship and its impact on God’s creation. Minneapolis architect Charlie Lazor suggests that we view commodity differently—as something (product or service) that people value and find useful and yet sustainable. For those, who may eventually be designing for the marketplace where commodity influences and shapes graphic design, we can think in a way that sees commodity leading to human emotional responses, such as caring, satisfaction, delight, or amusement. Whether it is a high-end ergonomic office chair or an improved sanitation system in an under-developed country let’s try to envision commodity, the product, as host to the person who uses it and to view the potential of design as if it were empathetically welcoming a guest.

Finally, graphic design is an area in need of transformation. Indeed, there are some signs pointing to transformation initiated by both Christian and non-Christian designers. Christian graphic designers can collaborate and be instrumental in this transformation by first cultivating the mind of Christ, being filled with compassion and working as creational stewards for shalom as it relates to the thriving of every creature, culture, and society. This can be our response to God as Christian designers.

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