The designer and founder of Fuseproject has curated his first exhibition, Technocraft, looking at the new age of DIY design, mass customisation and crowdsourcing.
So explain what Technocraft is.
It’s an exhibition about mass individualisation. It explores how new technologies are blurring the traditional boundaries between designer and consumer and looks at the different ways that consumers are personalising design in efforts to assert creativity and individuality in an age of mass-production and mass-consumption. In the exhibition this is represented through six themes: modules, crowdsourcing, platforms, hacks, incompletes and blueprints.
How come you decided to do this show?
A year and a half ago when we planned this exhibition the theme of Technocraft was a huge phenomenon that nobody had covered within the halls of a design or art institution. I find it fascinating both for what it means for the world of design and what it means for the consumer – being a consumer is becoming something different altogether.
How does this culture affect your role as a designer?
I think, simply, it makes it better. I always said that we have one foot in the consumer’s world and one foot in the industry, but the truth is a little different. In fact, the industry works as a filter between us and the consumer so I find that this world of mass individualisation makes us make better decisions about design. It helps us to be more relevant as designers. And I’m not talking about focus groups here, this is completely different. I’m not a designer that is anchored in this notion of total control or anything. There is a whole history of that type of design but it doens’t interest me.
I suppose, as a designer, all you want is for the consumer to use the product?
Yes, but it’s not just a functional exercise right? There are ideas in my designs, how the design fits with the era we live in, its relevance. All these things are equally critical but I can integrate them even better with user participation.
One of the exhibits is Local Motors; can you explain what they do?
It’s a car company that produces cars locally, where they are bought and will be used, by local manufacturers. So you can have a car which is more adapted, for example, to California weather. When you buy a Local Motor car you also have the option of building it yourself. The build experience is two three-day weekends and at the end you leave with your car. Local Motors also has this micro factory concept which we are looking into for our next office. So we are looking to install one of these micro manufacturing sites in our design studio in central San Francisco.
So what impact does this movement, if we can call it that, have on the environment?
Although this show isn’t about “green” design, when people are more involved in their consumption, it tends to be less ubiquitous and last longer. When things are user-generated, a certain level of group consciousness comes in and when you ask for the intelligence of a group to make an environmental decision you usually get a better decision, from my experience.
What happens to the show after it closes at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts?
I would love for the show to travel. It’s an exhibition that is relevant everywhere, what is on show here goes far beyond the Bay Area, although some of the technologies that make this mass individualisation possible are developed here.