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  • 09.08.10

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Presents TechnoCRAFT: Design in the Age of Individuality – Hackers Modders, Fabbers and Tweakers

“Bored with mass-production? Scared of cultural globalization? Emotionally disconnected from what you consume? Designers around the world are using technology to fight back and create a new economy based on craft, individualization and mass participation in the process of creation … ” That is according to Yves Behar of Fuse Project regarding the exhibit on display July 22nd to October 3rd, 2010 at the Yerba Buena Center For the Arts. After hearing of and seeing the exhibit, we agree.

“Bored with mass-production? Scared of cultural
globalization? Emotionally disconnected from what you consume? Designers
around the world are using technology to fight back and create a new economy
based on craft, individualization and mass participation in the process of
creation … ” That is according to Yves Behar of Fuse Project regarding the exhibit on
display July 22nd to October 3rd, 2010 at the Yerba Buena Center For the Arts. After hearing of and seeing the exhibit, we agree.

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Western market and economic cultures
are moving toward trust-building relationship activities that foster community
contribution in design and innovation. The Yerba Buena Center For the Arts’ exhibit “TechnoCRAFT” relishes this
and provides opportunities for contribution and mental frameworks for us to
revel in.

As a trend influencer I must make
note of influential creative activation. Addressed herein are major trends of
creative personalization, artisanal and crafted culture-building, serious
communal play and design innoventions currently evolving our marketplace.

I met Yves at The Milan Furniture
show (iSaloni.it) several years ago, introduced by the influential eco crafter Bill
Fritts of SolidCore.tv. Yves is one of the major designers of our times and is
leading us through paradigm shifting behaviors such as those featured in “TechnoCRAFT” and within GPInnovation.org,
an organization helping move designers into more cradle-to-cradle sustainable
behaviors.

We matched up young Web
designer Jake Cook of DigitalWaxWorks.com and Yves on the opening night of
the show. The following is a report from Cook on that opening night experience.

Wanted: Designer–No Experience Necessary but Participation Mandatory

In the recent book, Shop Class
as Soulcraft
, Matthew Crawford writes, “People who make their own furniture
will tell you it is hard to justify economically, and yet they persist. Shared
memories attach to the material souvenirs of our lives, and producing them is a
kind of communion, with others and with the future.”

So where does this “communion”
currently stand in our present age of mass-consumerism and relentless
homogenization?

Yerba Buena Center For the Arts in
San Francisco along with designers such as Yves Behar, famed product designer and founder of the firm Fuseproject set about documenting this revolt.

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Over a year in the making, the
show entitled “TechnoCRAFT: Design in the Age of Individuality” features over
800 works by over 40 artists. The show centers around six collaborative sub-themes:

1. Crowdsourcing
Currently uses a community to develop, innovate and choose new design solutions
or to shift consumption to a new human solution-focused group engagement. It counts on passionate members to
assemble and participate. The idea is becoming adopted as a business strategy
in companies like Threadless.com, Local-Motors.com and by social ‘innoventions’
like the wildly successful global AND local CarrotMob.com.

2. Modules
Modules are the stringing together of individual pieces to create something
unique. The user plays a role in deciding how to assemble the design. Designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Clouds (Kvadratclouds.com) offers a chance to
dive in headfirst.

3. Hacks – Originally
a geek term for tweaking software, sometimes for malicious reasons. Today it
means a manipulation of everything from iPhones to tables for optimum
performance, aesthetic variety, added functionality and flexibility.

4. Incompletes
Incompletes start the design process but leave it open to the user to finish.
Marijn van der Poll’s ‘Do Hit’ chair made by Droog (droog.com/products/0/do-hit-chair)
is a stainless steel cube just waiting for a sledgehammer to complete it. (A
patron at the opening night tried to further participate by hitting the chair.
All sledgehammers were immediately removed).

5. Blueprints
Blueprints map out the construction process, leaving the experience of building
the design to the user. In a visionary act in 1974, Enzo Mari‘s furniture designs came with a free catalogue and detailed
instructions on how to build the pieces yourself.

6. Platforms
Platforms are open, software-based personalization structures that provide easy
ways for users to customize or create their own products. PUMA‘s smartly
named “Mongolian Barbecue” let’s shoe aficionados design and order through a
Flash site and brick and mortar. Nike ID is another famed personalization
platform and boutique.

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What each of these themes points
to is a major cultural shift. People want to create, to once again build with
their hands and have a connection to what they own.

If this exhibit is a harbinger of
things to come then the user is no longer standing across the divide, looking
to the designer to provide an experience or grant permission. Instead, they’re rolling up their
sleeves and participating right alongside.

On the opening night, visitors
were encouraged to participate throughout the “TechnoCRAFT” exhibit such as
sketching on a bolt of canvas that would later become pairs of Puma shoes. One patron took participation to the
extreme and picked up a sledgehammer and slung it on the ‘Do Hit’ stainless
steel chair. The deafening crash
halted the packed gathering and resulted in all sledgehammers immediately being
removed from sight.

However, one of the best examples
of intentional participation is a simple child’s high chair. Using an original classic Ray and Charles Eames
chair, a group of design students sawed holes with a jigsaw and drum sander to
let a child’s legs fall through where the knees naturally bend.

“We were nervous to hack it. It’s
such an iconic piece but the chairs have a bit of a pretentious air to them,” remarked
Alex Powell, a member of the team. “We decided to poke a bit of fun at high
design and see what the results could be.”

The result is best illustrated by
a great photo of a young boy with legs slipping through the chair, an oversized
guitar watch strapped on, head tipped back leisurely slurping spaghetti. It has become the poster for the event
(literally) by highlighting something originally created for the masses and
modified by rogue designers to make a more comfortable seat for the end user.

All these hacks and tweaks point
to an interesting shift in how we’re relating to the products we buy. We want to feel a richer connection to the
things we own. Sure, globalization
and big box stores have made it cost-prohibitive to go out and build something
yourself. But that doesn’t mean
you shouldn’t try. As “TechnoCRAFT”
shows, we all have a voice and more than a few good ideas. By participating in the tweaking of something,
we get back some of the creative satisfaction or as the book Shop Class as
Soulcraft
puts it “a kind of communion.”

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Edited by Elizabeth Adams

About the author

A dynamic social researcher, cultural narrator, future trendhunter and strategic designer, Jody Turner works and speaks globally via her west coast company CultureofFuture.com and the London group Trendwatching.com. Client engagements have included Apple, BMW, StyleVision France, Adidas, Starbucks, The Gap, Unilever Istanbul and multiple others.

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