a physical object is merely the representation of the idea

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I met with my teacher Sally this afternoon (if you’re reading this, hi Sally!). We had a brief discussion about my current department at school. I had mentioned how the transition between an industrial design major to CMF design major, was interesting, to say the least. I told her I always came up short when people asked me what Color and Materials was all about. Saying that we research and develop color and materials for future applications, seems rudimentary and frankly, kind of stupid. It’s always met with blank stares and silence. So, being someone who talks a lot, I launch into babbling that just results in them being even more confused, inevitably making me feel even more useless. A mutually frustrating conversation. 

I’ve been in the art and design world for almost 6 years now. I’ve gone through several study changes, and in the process, have seen the very different approaches to art. Some areas of art and design are slow and steady, with a heavy emphasis on the front end of a project. Others, fly through the beginning research stages and launch right into product development. Others still, skip most, if not all, of the R&D and go straight into producing. My current department tends to fall into the latter of those categories. We skip most of the thinking and just produce things. If you don’t deliver a final model (car exterior, interior, etc) then you have failed the class. That process is conducive for what our industry calls for. So I shouldn’t be frustrated. But I am. 

When Sally and I talked, I expressed this irritation. How do I explain that the thinking and front-end of a project – research, user experience, interaction processes, etc – is just as important, sometimes even more so, than the final product?? Why do people put so much emphasis on a physical, final product? I am so intrigued with the fleshing out of the research. Hence why so may of my posts here are just questions. Why this? Why that? What am I not asking that I should be? And she told me something very simple that will stick with me for a long time. She said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Sydney, a physical object is merely the representation of the idea.” Without the idea, that product wouldn’t exist. Without the idea, there is nothing. WOW. To hear it said so simply and effectively.

But if the above is true, why isn’t the process itself treasured? Our world has become mesmerized with material objects. There is so much value placed in a physical thing, that what goes on without a physical element, is rendered almost useless. How do you make original thoughts, feelings, intent, analysis, etc materialize? Being smart, and I mean truly smart, is not valued as being society’s smart, until you make something of it. Take Elon Musk. Brilliant guy. Would he be any less brilliant if he had never made a Tesla car? No, I don’t think he would be. But, I would argue that society would call him crazy in that instance. So how do we solve this problem within our society? Beats me. 

Like I said before, most of my posts here are just questions. And random thoughts being flung into the void of the internet doesn’t necessarily count as materialization. Right now I don’t have an answer. But maybe within the next few years of my life, I’ll be able to get closer to it. Right now, I’m content with just learning, even if I have “nothing” to show for it.