Kinetic Design and the Animation of Products

At this point in history, Industrial Design is poised to undergo major evolutionary changes. New technologies, new materials and increasingly sophisticated consumer tastes all demand colossal transformations. Perhaps most exciting among these is the development of Kinetic Design which entails the aesthetic design of physical movement. Through this practice, industrial designers will not just create forms, but choreograph those forms’ movements through space. Kinetic Design will literally open a new dimension for the aesthetic development of physical objects and the world will be richer for it.

At Industrial Design schools around the world, students are being trained to create the objects that fill our lives. Sadly, with few exceptions, today’s young designers are walking out into the world with more-or-less the same tool sets as designers of 60 years ago. One can observe this phenomenon quite readily by perusing the course catalogs of leading design schools such as Art Center College of Design or Pratt Institute. Green initiatives and CAD (computer aided design) related courses comprise the only notable updates to curricula around the world. This is astonishingly meager given the rapidly changing nature of the field itself. The addition of Kinetic Design will help broaden curricula in order to stimulate new thinking and new potentials.

Companies would never send their ideas off to market without determining what materials they were to be made of or what color. It follows that Industry should commit this same attention to how their ideas move. The animation of products is at least as important an aesthetic factor as form, color, or material.

Most Industrial Design firms and departments consist of individuals with various combinations of specifically named aesthetic skills: there are designers who can draw, there are designers who can create foam or CAD models, there are designers who can develop color and graphic treatments, etc. Presently, there is no specifically designated class of designers qualified to decide how products move. Kinetic Designers will soon fill this void.

It is universally understood that rigorous aesthetic control over all the aspects of an object’s development produces more beautiful and pleasing results. Designer Raymond Loewy explained it succinctly saying, “Ugliness does not sell.” Companies would never send their ideas off to market without determining what materials they were to be made of or what color. It follows that Industry should commit this same attention to how their ideas move. The animation of products is at least as important an aesthetic factor as form, color, or material.

In order to meet this demand within the profession, design schools will increasingly need to produce graduates who know how their objects should move. Designers are not just form-givers, they are whole object creators and experience designers. By incorporating the creative and experiential notions of Kinetic Design into their vocabulary, designers will produce more exciting, more unified products, which will in turn lead to greater commercial success.

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Ben Hopson is a designer, artist, and educator working in Brooklyn, NY. Examples of his work in Kinetic Design can be seen at http://www.benhopson.com.

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