Join Dave Schultze for an in-depth discussion in this video Humor? That's funny, part of Design Foundation 3D: Shape and Form.
- For me, one of the best parts of designing is to have fun. As a creative exercise to help or enlighten people, why wouldn't you want to add humor whenever possible? However, this can provide additional challenges. Not all projects should be whimsical or have silly characters. Since I try to avoid lists, let's cover some personal design goals as if they're a cake. At the bottom we always have form and function. Somewhere in the middle are cost and usability, with maybe some sustainability in there too.
Humor would definitely be the icing on that cake. It's great when you have it, but it's not always required. Our first example will be in architecture, but first, a short history detour. This is a series of human form columns called Caryotids on the Erechtheion in Athens from 407 BCE. Now let's jump to the Team Disney Building in Burbank, California, which opened 2,398 years later in 1991.
Designed by Michael Graves, he has replaced Greek goddesses with Snow White's seven dwarves. Yes, the seventh one is up there at the top. This invasion of fictional characters is very funny and original, but probably wouldn't work for any other company. In product and housewares, no one comes closer to capturing the spirit of humor and strange little characters than Italian manufacturer Alessi. Founded by the Alessi family in 1921, it's still run by the same family almost a hundred years later.
I'm going to break from tradition and cover two products in a row from these Alessi folks. They're that good. First up is Diva, a watering can design by Eero Aarnio in 2009. The idea here may not be immediately obvious and that's the beauty of it. So, imagine an opera singer. The opening is her mouth and the spout is her hand. Do you see it? It is simple, clever, and even looks animated. Next we have the Pisellino jar, designed by Stefano Giovannoni.
He or she is a very shy and strange little character, but cute as heck. I love the fact that this design is interactive. Your Q-tips stay hidden and organized until the critical moment. Then you just yank on our character's head and your problem is solved. Now one of my own projects. This teapot is called OO-OO. HOT HOT HOT. This character-inspired design is animated as the water gets hotter. First the eyes get bigger and then turn red.
When the water is ready, his beanie propellor hat spins and whistles. The sad story with our character is that he is always re-learning the same lesson. It's not a good idea to sit on a hot stove. Here's the original sketch that inspired the work. Functionally, I also thought it would be safer to have a hands-free lid. So the lid is mounted on a hinge and it can be opened with a trigger in the handle. Humor and design has to be a good fit with your function. Like the icing on a cake, it's not always required or needed.
It also takes extra work to pull it off successfully, so you should save it for those categories that would benefit from the silliness.
First, see how the same idea can be applied in a smaller 2D scale—like graphics and print, fine art, and advertising. Dave then blows it up in 3D, and showcases examples from product design, furniture, architecture, and urban planning.
Projects and concepts are presented in an engaging and sometimes irreverent manner with images, videos, and personal and professional stories from Dave. Check out this fast-paced tour as it covers topics ranging from grids and axes to designing with humor.
- Design exploration with sketching
- 3D exploration with organic forms
- Grids and axes
- Defining space
- Color and contrast
- Texture and patterns
- Minimalism. Less is more.
- Retro. It's back!