Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video IDEO, part of Objectified.
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(wind blowing) - If one's really honest with oneself, most of what you design ends up in a landfill somewhere. And I'm pretty sure most of the products that I have designed in my career, most instances of that, of the millions of things that have been produced, are probably in landfills today. That isn't something that I was conscious of when I started working in design. It didn't really even occur to me, because it didn't really occur to us as a society, I think.
Now to be a designer, you have to take that into consideration. Because we have to think about these complex systems in which our products exist. - If the shelf-life of a high tech object is less than 11 months, it should be all 100 percent disposable. You know, I think my laptop in a way should be made of cardboard. Or my mobile phone could be a piece of cardboard. Or it could be just made out of, I don't know, something like sugar cane or some bipolastic, et cetera.
Why on earth does anything have to be built to be permanent? - If I think of my admiration for Eames, it was an admiration for his ability to identify the qualities of new materials, which could be used to create new objects. But nobody worried about whether fiberglass was going to cause disease, or going to be difficult to dispose of. I mean, life was a little bit simpler for him in that regard. He could just think about using the materials for their best design attributes.
But now we have to face this idea that what we do is not just the way we create some individual design. It's what happens afterwards. When we've finished our design, people have used it. So this sort of cradle to cradle concept.
- One of my very first projects was to design a toothbrush. A kid's toothbrush. Brushes at that time typically were just a stick with bristles at the end, which was pretty boring. So we introduced other materials to it, and we made the handle thick. And in the end it became a really successful product. But my boss maybe half a year after we launched the brush, went on a vacation. The idea was to go to the most remote beach. And the way Paul tells the story, it's like the next morning he steps out of the tent, and he wants to go to the pristine beach, you know, whales frolicking around, perfect.
And what does he stumble over, is our toothbrush. And it's there, and it's this brush. (laughter) It's covered in barnacles. The plastic is faded. The bristles are worn. This brush, within months of the product being launched, had been used up, had been discarded, found its way into the Pacific. So even though it's a little, small object, it creates a big piece of landfill that apparently goes just about everywhere.
- Let's go ahead and actually start defining some of the challenges and some of the questions that we might be asking ourselves. You know, is there any toothbrush that we would actually feel comfortable washing up on the beach? - So much of the toothbrush does not need to be disposed of, right? It's really, like, you put the bristles in your mouth. The rest of it's all like cleanable materials. Why are we tossing out all this stuff every time? - It could be the greatest handle in the world, because you only use one handle in your lifetime. You could make it out of sterling silver. - Right. (laughter) - It could be this heirloom thing, and then you just replace the heads, and the heads could be (drowned out.) - I think also the solution of the toothbrush assumes that only approach to oral care, or one of the main approaches to oral care is through the toothbrush.
- What if we didn't need toothbrushes? What could it be? - Yeah (indistinct chatter) - When I first started the company, the role of industrial designer was primarily about the kind of aesthetics or the kind of cleverness around function, but it was always as a minor piece of... The company was in charge of the major piece of doing everything, and we were kind of hired guns to complete some aspect.
- The question is actually not what's the new toothbrush, but what is the future of oral care? - Fortune cookie with floss inside? (laughter) - As we grew, it became clear that companies were happy for us to do more and more of the actual design of the overall product. - I don't know, I'm just really enamored with the idea of like doing teeth cleaning at NASCAR. - I kind of think of it as they kind of do analytical thinking, we do this kind of innovative or design thinking, where we're more focused on kind of user-centered ideas, stuff that will resonate with the people who are going to actually use the product.
We kind of come in from the point of view of what do people value? What are their needs? And it just results in different products. - You get the bale and you get these things, and you break them apart or something like a wishbone or something, I don't know. It's kind of like a... - Ooh. - The big design challenge here is like, there's a lot of things that we care about and cleaning our teeth is probably not high on that list. - Yeah, I think the wishbone is nice, but I take the real shape of a wishbone. - Design thinking is a way to systematically be innovative.
We do these things, you know how some people make lists? Designers make what I call mind maps, where they keep going further and further. Something leads to something else, which leads them. And as you're branching out, you're getting to new ground where your mind has never taken you before. And that's where kind of interesting design stuff happens in my mind. - When I came into design, designers would be at their drawing boards, one. And they'd work at their drawing board.
They would maybe have some magazines and some things to look at to inspire them. And one of the things I did when I came was drag people out of the studio into the environment. And put designers into the position of looking at people and going through the steps that other people were going through as a source of inspiration.
It's really about trying to make an empathic connection with people in their context. - Is that Helvetica? - It's not Helvetica, no. - So that as designers we're picking up on the vibration of what they're about. And being able to somehow identify with that, and have that spur our creative thinking and creative response. (machine whirs) - Technology and things you keep.
Things you love, things that get better with time. Cool. - I think today, I see my role as a designer to help define what we should be creating for people. And the output is not necessarily obviously a design. It's not obviously a product. Recently we designed a new banking service for one of the big banks here in America, Bank of America. And there are two and a half million people using that savings account today.
So not just giving form to the thing that has been created. - I think that what designers will do in the future is to become the reference point for policy makers. For anybody who wants to create a link between something that his hifalutin and hard to translate, and reality and people. And I almost envision them as becoming the intellectuals of the future. I always find it really funny, you know, the French, whenever they have to talk about the price of gas, or the cheese war with Italy, they go to a philosopher.
Right? You know, it's kind of hilarious, but it's funny. Philosophers are the culture-generators in France. I want designers to the culture-generators pretty much all over the world. And some of them really can. And no matter what, they shiould become really fundamental bricks in any kind of policy-making effort. And more and more that's happening. But I see designers as designing not any more objects, per se, in some cases yes. But also scenarios that are based on objects that will help people understand the consequences of their choices.
And you know people like Dunne and Raby do that exactly. They call it Design for Debate.
Objectified is a documentary about industrial design; it's about the manufactured objects we surround ourselves with, and the people who make them. Gary Hustwit, the director of Helvetica, talks with Dieter Rams, Marc Newson, Jonathan Ive, and other renowned designers behind some of the world's most iconic products. lynda.com is proud to offer this film to our members, along with over one hour of online-exclusive bonus movies.