I was interested in the comments in Voxpop responding to Jonathan Ive’s assertion that rapid prototyping is distancing designers from the physical process of design (DW 30 April).
I agree with Matthew Lewis that knowledge of materials and processes is fundamental to successful design (and to any creative process), but it is wrong of Ive to blame the tools. RP, and now rapid manufacturing (additive manufacturing, or whatever you want to call it), open up enormous creative possibilities, and should be seen as a way of connecting the designer with the consumer in the same way as in pre-Industrial Revolution craft-based societies.
As AM frees the designer from tooling and mouldmaking, there is the potential of every product being tailored for a specific requirement in the same way that a potter would have served the needs of the farmer or cook. This should engage the designer with the whole creative process and emphasises the need to understand the capabilities of materials.
As designers, artists and creatives we have new tools in our toolbox. AM and RP don’t replace the other tools.
They complement them and should be used appropriately.
Ive should be addressing the colleges and universities which are closing their 3D workshops and sitting students in front of computers as the cheaper option. It is central to the success of design innovation in the UK that knowledge of materials and processes is a fundamental part in the education of the next generation of creatives.
Michael Eden, by e-mail