Design Elevates

  • Design Elevates Blog Introduction

    Scott Sivan
    Mar 31, '12 4:09 AM EST

    The purpose of this Blog is to present and discuss the many ways investment in DESIGN, financial or professional, ELEVATES the goals it serves whether making a more sustainable environment or profitable commercial enterprise.  The primary focus of this Blog will be architecture, but the other related fields: graphic design, fashion design, interior design, and product design, will be considered as references, especially since we are living in a multi-disciplinary hybridized world. 

    We start with the premise that despite the lack of definitive statistical evidence, Design, that is GOOD DESIGN, always enhances, and in some cases makes the difference, in the success of an object – the success being defined by its reception in the marketplace, both short and long term, and its sustainable commercial, functional, and aesthetic value in the world. 

    We as architectural designers, who share the belief in our craft, its impact, and its value, recognize through our education and experience, how fundamental our work is producing quality results for our clients and for the larger public in general. 

    However, the larger audience of this Blog is not we the choir or the choir masters amongst us, but the community of public and private clients, institutions and companies, that are the developers, who actually determine and decide the amount of funding and support DESIGN receives.  And as we all know, design, that is GOOD DESIGN, no matter how efficiently produced, how well designed, defined, and repeatable the design process, TAKES TIME, and TIME is MONEY to quote Benjamin Franklin.

    The origin of this BLOG is the State of Israel, a distinctly different culture and country, than those in the U.S., Europe, or Far East, that have historically appreciated, though inconsistently, and not necessarily at all levels or aspects of society, the value of design.  And therefore, as important as this subject throughout the world, in those places in which this concept is already a familiar and to some degree accepted, it is especially relevant here, where respect and appreciation for GOOD DESIGN is dramatically often lacking or non-existing.

    There are many factors influencing the de-prioritizing GOOD DESIGN in Israel, and other developing nations.  Lack of resources and more pressing issues are often the main reasons cited.  However, as the design of kibbutzim, and the City of Tel Aviv, UNESCO White City, attest, design has had positively lasting influences in the development of culture, commerce, and even security in this country.  One can easily reach the conclusion that design, especially design inspired by a long-term intelligent and relevant vision is always appropriate, and always delivers positive results.

    In this BLOG we are focused on achieving all kinds of anecdotal and statistical evidences, references, examples, and suggestions, for building a catalog of information for bringing design, GOOD DESIGN, to the forefront of our efforts to make a more sustainable and commercially viable culture in this country, and the world in general, for our clients and ourselves.

    Therefore, we invite all blog participants to send any example or evidence, no matter what form it takes, in architecture or any related field, which will help to lift this concept into the larger public awareness.  After all, this is not a concept we can simply mandate, even less so than we can sustainability, with all the progress made it both public and private spheres.  We are really seeking a change of consciousness, an attempt to mainstream the values that all designers build their practices, that design is an inherent and constituent part of making the world a healthier, and more hospitable, sustainable, and beautiful place.  So...


    Let the Elevation Begin

    Holon Design Museum, Architecture: Ron Arad, Holon, Israel


    First Entry: AIA Europe Bi-Annual Conference: 4D Collage, Design Elevates, April 2012, Israel

    Between April 19 and 22, 2012, members of the European Chapter of the AIA will attend one of their bi-annual conferences in Israel called 4D COLLAGE, DESIGN ELEVATES.  The subject of this conference will be the multi-layered societal, cultural, and aesthetic history of Israeli architecture, which is a 4D Collage of ancient, eclectic, modern, and post-modern periods, which is little know throughout the world, and Design Elevates, as discussed in the Introduction to the Blog.

    In the opening night of this conference their will be a Panel bringing together various experts and practitioners from the government, private development, and architectural community to discuss the different aspects, challenges, and possibilities that Design has to actually elevate the commercial and cultural realities that it's bound by and ultimately serves.

    Here are the opening comments from that Panel as way of stimulating the discussion amongst you, our participants and colleagues who have taken your time to look at this issue with us.

    In the early 1930's Herbert "Hib" Johnson, in an effort to improve the corporate image and productivity of the company he inherited, hired an aging Frank Lloyd Wright to design the Johnson Wax building in Racine Wisconsin.   For its main interior space, Wright developed a large open space working hall, which he dubbed the "Cathedral of Work."  Note the intent of Wright to elevate the workspace experience.  A study conducted by Johnson after completing the building showed that the productivity of the workers in this environment increased by 25% and the profitability to 5 million dollars a year, a significant amount in the late 1930s.

    In 1950 Marcel Bich designed and launched the Bic Cristal pen in France.  Called the "Atomic pen" the Bic Cristal ballpoint writing tip and ergonomic design changed the way writing instruments were appreciated by the public, ultimately replacing fountain pens as the writing instruments of choice.  Following it's success in Europe, in 1959 Bic, having changed the spelling of his name on the advise of his marketing consultant, brought the pen to America, at first selling at a higher price, he lowered it to the now famous 19 cents, galvanizing the highly fragmented market at the time with the slogan "writes first time, every time."  Today, the Bic Cristal is the most widely sold pen in the world having sold more one hundred billion.

    While Bic was starting a new trend in the 1950's with his inventive design, a trend that continues today, note the endless variety of pens and markers available today, Thomas Watson, the Head of IBM, first stated the now famous idiom "Good design is good business."  Watson’s epiphany came while strolling down Fifth Avenue one day noticing the colorful and coordinated palette display of the Olivetti typewriter store.  In that moment he realized that design could contribute not only to the development and manufacturing of things, but to their branding and commercial relevance as well.

    Watson understood that design could be and is inherent and fundamental part of all good business practice and success.  And he, like Johnson before him, literally put his money where his ideas were.  Transforming IBM comparatively modest business into an industrial giant, he attributed a significant part of his success to design, hiring at one time or other historically important architects and designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarenin, and Paul Rand among them.   Paul Rand's IBM logo is still used and known throughout the world.

    In our generation design is no longer a revelation to either consumers or it's sponsors, but it is too often undervalued, underappreciated, and under-funded, though it has become increasingly clear how highly conceived and well executed design makes the world a richer, more reliable, sustainable, and interesting place, and how GOOD design provides benefits for its investors and its consumers.  We see this in the emergence of the space planning, which improves a company's bottom-line by increasing productivity amongst its employees through proper spatial orientations and layouts, by creating new concepts in the personal work-space and  work-place community.   We see this in the emergence of architecture as a source   of branding.

    From the Pompidou, to iPod to iPad, to Bilbao, to the Google logo, to Gucci, Pravda, and Louis Vuitton, to the Tel Aviv Museum, where visitation has increased as the result of its excellent design and compelling form, to the Mini Cooper and the W Hotels, design has become a normal part of our lives, and has emerged as a critical strategic component of management and commerce. It is now used to establish corporate identities, to develop brands, and to differentiate products from competition.  Hewlett and Packard, like many corporations now have design standards for the design of their buildings in order to be consistent with the quality image and products they wish to sell, having realized that good design can assist in generating revenues and delivering profits in addition to creating a better life.

    Tel Aviv Muesum of Art, Architecture by Preston Scott Cohen

    As a consequence of this heightened awareness of the value of GOOD DESIGN, its influence in helping companies, institutions, and individual investors to reach strategically sound and sustainable commercial design decisions, i.e, to being "design literate," is becoming  recognized as an important and highly bankable management skill. However, design is too often not a priority in, or even an aspect of, higher education, business, professional or otherwise, and not of business policy or practice, especially in places like Israel, where other priorities take precedent.   So it is not easy for businesses or managers to engage in or employ design thinking, design language, and design goals in their planning and developing of their products or buildings.  This has to change.

    So, with all due respect to the enlightened examples above and to the mantra we are happy to recite about GOOD DESIGN, GOOD DESIGN, GOOD DESIGN, and interpretation of the commonly known Location, Location, Location, or as I like to say, Location, Location, Design, it will not do us or the larger public in general any good until it becomes a basic part of the commercial and cultural dialogue.  And that it is why we need to broaden our scope and extend our reach into those parts of the corporate, political, and public parts of the world where this notion is still too foreign or completely unknown.

    Although this is not the main subject here, the aspects of design we are speaking about are not only the aesthetic and functional, the two primary components of commercial success, but their sustainability and cultural relevance, two other equally important components, which will ensure the long-term success we are all interested in.

    In addition before addressing the subject directly I would like to make two contextual comments.

    First, I am not suggesting that design's primary service should be its ability to make profits for its investors or enhance the product's capacity for branding, a term we have become quite familiar with.  Inherent in all the examples above and inherent in my presentation is the idea that design, that is GOOD DESIGN, is a fundamental part of achieving a higher quality environment and world, through the products and objects we design.   Not only does good design achieve better technical and commercial results for those support and sponsor it, but for the users as well.  Everyone benefits.  And in a world, which is increasingly challenged by financial and environmental burdens our contribution as designers is even more significant and vital.

    Secondly, that GOOD DESIGN is not just the privilege of the corporate, public, or private client who has the power or means to employ the best designers, but it should become a part of all aspects, and all levels of financial wherewithal and society.  Whether making choices in the building a small private home or kindergarten, good design should be a fundamental part in organizing the choices that are made from the shape and function of things, to the materials, to the site execution.  GOOD DESIGN should be and is the best way to approach any construction or production.

    In short we believe DESIGN ELEVATES, and we aim to make this concept a constituent part of all decision making in the architectural world we are employed to create.

    by Scott Sivan, AIA


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How good design elevates commerce and culture.

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