It’s Sunday, September 21th, 2003, there is something rotten happening in Manchester, England, today. Arsenal is playing Manchester United for the first time this season, in a type of game that earns a name for itself – Battle of Old Trafford. There have been 8 yellows cards and 1 red card, but no goals. We cross the last of the 90 minutes of official gameplay and enter 2 minutes of stoppage time. In the 91th minute, Gary Neville launches a curling cross into the inside box of the penalty area for Deigo Forlan, who is brought down by the Arsenal defender Martin Keown. It’s the last kick of the game and United have a crucial penalty kick, which is to be taken by the greatest finisher of all-time, and at the time a personal hero of mine, Ruud van Nistelrooy. Van Nistelrooy sets up the ball and takes the required steps back, resting his hands on his waist waiting for the Referee to give him the go ahead. Here comes the whistle, and all I hear is at first a hard punch and then the rattling of the crossbar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1dfphE6jOs ). The game ends nil-nil and Arsenal go undefeated that season to win the English Premier League, only the second team to do so after the Preston North team of the 1880s. There is a quote by a famous actor playing a famous character in a famous movie, based on a famous book written by a famous football fan. It goes something like “Will you please, please, please, please, please just fucking fuck off? You have arrived during the worst sixty seconds of my life, and I really don’t want to see you” (Fever Pitch 1997). Sorry, that’s the wrong quote, but this one does aptly describes my emotions at the time. The actual quote is:
Don’t say that! Please! That is the worst, most stupid thing anyone could say! Cause it quite clearly isn’t only a game. I mean if it was do you honestly think I’d care this much? Eh? Eighteen years! Eight-teen years! Do you know what you wanted eighteen years ago? Or ten? Or five? Did you want to be Head of Year at North London Comprehensive, I doubt it. I’d doubt if you wanted anything for that long. And if you had, and if you’d spent three months thinking that finally, finally you were going to get it and just when you think it’s there it’s taken away from you… I mean I don’t care what it is, a car, a job, an Oscar, the baby… then you’d understand how I was feeling tonight. But there isn’t, and you don’t… (Fever Pitch 1997)
It’s been 11 years, and I’m still waiting for that ball to bounce off the crossbar and, instead of flying off into oblivion, pull itself past that thin white line. I’ve maintained the same regiment of passion and drive for that one moment, without a single sigh or a flash of self-doubt. Except, it has always only been for that one moment. There has always been this lack of impulse for anything else, whether it for money, success or even potential happiness. I have always had this ennui held within me. But, as with everyone else, you have these moments where things just happen to fall on your lap, no one can know why or how, and you just arbitrarily decide for yourself as to what to do with them. It happened just like this with football, Manchester United and the Battle of Old Trafford; I became a part to it.
Philosophy taught me how to interpret things and experience them as a whole. I always knew God was dead, but never truly experienced it. There no longer was a lack of impulse, as the emptiness morphed, funny enough, into a motivation. It forced upon a realization, a goal of roaming around without limitations. This would be a world where you can survive limitlessly, free to roam, work or eat as you please. At the same time, I was first introduced to art and design. I hated them, even though I knew nothing about them, rather just because they came off as lavish and unnecessary. Up till philosophy, I only opted for non-fiction writings because I always assumed fiction was basically a longer version of the truth enacted through the medium of a superfluous story, while non-fiction was hard edged and straight to the point. Hence, I learned to internalize everything with the coming of storytelling, including art and design, eventually leading me to the path of conception and production.
My design practice is based upon my limitations. For every personal shortcoming or scarcity of resource, I try to incorporate a more significant reason for its absence. Before choosing to follow in this field of profession, I was well aware of what I can and cannot do. I knew of the most common skills that every designer should unmistakably master over time, for example sketching or woodworking, but I was also sensitive to the fact that there would be such talents that would just fall beyond me. These talents are lacking not because they are unattainable, rather I don’t care enough to master them. I am not an advocate of the saying “To break the rules, you must master them first.” To master a talent takes years of devotion and practice, but to create something beautiful and truly original requires more than a single mastered skill. I believe in diversifying, whether it is with regards to one’s knowledge, colleagues or daily routine. With cruel internalization, cold research and the right mix of skills and interests, a solution to any problem can be conceived.
Consider the following case, during my 1st year of the industrial design program, I was instructed to build a kids stool out of a single sheet of plywood. I had never worked with any kind of heavy machinery before or even knew what plywood was, and to be honest I had a hard enough time just learning how to properly use the utility knife. So, knowing what I could and couldn’t achieve within that short period of 2 weeks I had to produce a finished prototype, I decided to focus on creating the most captivating stool that an 8 year old kid would love than rather an aesthetically concerned designer would like. This allowed me the freedom to not be concerned about making pesky amateur mistakes while making the prototype, as long as the end product was mind-boggling from a child’s perspective. Thus, I came up with the Kinetic Kids Stool, an 8-legged stool that walked like a spider when dragged along the floor.
I don’t want to consider myself as a designer, rather not only as a designer. Every profession has its unique characteristics that mold and shape how an individual from within that field would speak, act and think. But, most of all there is the consistent need for amalgamation into something that is more than a single individual or a small collective. I don’t want to be a part of a union, but protect myself as an individual. An individual is free to be a part of whatever he or she requires, but a member is equated to a higher entity. An individual hold multiple positions at a time, but a professional is only considered by his or her deemed highest profession. This is not to say that I do not value design, rather I see design as a tool for evaluation. Design being abstract and subjective, is a perfect tool for adapting all kinds of skills and information within it. This is something that I’ve found truer with every completed project, as I am marveled by the diversity and openness one can witness within design. Overall, the avenues of design are a medium to connect with something larger and more concrete, as you cannot ever see or achieve the whole truth through design alone.
Here’s another example, for one of my design classes my peers and I were asked to design a lectern for a multi-purpose faculty office space, which was to be used for special events and guest lecturers. We were given a budget of $500 and the lectern was to be made using only flat stock, as it would be milled using a CNC machine. Everyone in my class, to my surprise, only concerned themselves with the aesthetics and economic restrains of designing and producing a functioning piece of furniture. I was surprised because from my outlook a lectern is a disproportionate item, meaning something that is only utilized for minor intervals while remaining a liability for the majority of its time. Hence, the puzzling notion of why an entire class of designers is more concerned about aesthetics, not to say that it is an unnecessary concern, while a major pitfall remains untouched. In the end, I designed a dual-position office desk that could be transformed into a functioning lectern with just one step.
Diversification, for an individual, is important, but it is negligible without co-operation and collaboration. As I mentioned before, I don’t hope to master any skill, and yet produce an unmatchable product. To do such, one is required to work in a collective, almost always. Being aware of my limitations also requires knowing how to overcome them when required. The process of creation cannot be marked by egos or impatience. What truly matters at the end is what was created, not who created it. I can come up with the most imaginative ideas that anybody can think of, but they are nothing in comparison to even the most dreadfully failed attempts. This doesn’t mean that the creation process is to be a collective effort. For a project to be fully realized it does require a singular vision, but it should be open to productive changes and critiques.
This belief was best demonstrated while working on creating the Umbrella Pencil Case. Here, my group and I were asked to take any one object and redesign it for a class project. Within my group, I had the freedom to propose a thoughtful concept and, after some deliberation on the finer details, have the opportunity to carry it to fruition. Having played my part of coming up with the product idea, I left form creation to my group members, as this was a task they were excellent at. Though, I did provide my opinion at various intervals to make sure that form selection did not hamper my initial concept. Finally, also leaving the 3D modeling aspect to another member, I catered towards finalizing the presentation for the product. In the end, I got the opportunity to manufacture a product based on my initial concept, and with the co-operation of my team members it was an overall success.
To conclude, in my career, I hope to try everything once and nothing ever more than twice. There are far too many interesting things and people to work with that spending time on designing, for example, a chair over and over again seems pointless. Also, I try to achieve permanence within my work, when possible. This does not mean I am naive, as I know that permanence is a subjective term. One can design a chair from the most solid chunk of metal that will physically last for generations, but not a single passing trend on a social or individual scale. Permanence, for me, isn’t an immortal life, rather continued rebirths or the unyielding cycle of reincarnation. I strive to provide users with all the tools and resources to rework and re-invigorate life into a product or a service. I also realize this is a difficult goal to work towards, especially in consideration towards product design, but with the free spaces of the internet and open-sourced modern technology this seems to be an attainable goal for most recognized services and possibly some types of products.