Industrial design challenges discussed

This years Industrial Designers Society of America national conference and design gallery will look to address the sets of opposing forces designers face in their work.

The conference, entitled Polar Opposites, will address the contradiction between mass consumption and minimising environmental impact; the need for both quarterly profits and long-term brand equity; and the challenges posed by men designing for women.

Procter & Gamble will be tackling the issue of consumption and environmental impact. Conference chairman Craig Vogel says, ‘The new problem is the full life cycle impact and it [Procter & Gamble] will be looking at how that can affect plastic bottles.’ Vogel suggests that design solutions can be sought by inviting both the client and consultancy side to debate. The discrepancy between quarterly profits and long-term brand equity will be discussed by Richard Earl – grandson of Harley Earl, who established the first car design department at General Motors. Vogel suggests that Earl will be addressing this as ‘GM lost a lot of brand equity.’ He adds, ‘Market investors look to the short term – how they’ve got to hit every quarter, when they should be looking at the long term.’

Within this context, Vogel says, ‘Earl will talk about design and the contemporary issues the company faces.’

Challenges posed by men designing for women will, according to Vogel, be part of a wider focus of discussion based around age demographics and design. ‘We’ll be looking at the shift in the average age of the population. The post-war baby boomer population now controls a large amount of the economy. They’re an invisible power,’ he says. Addressing design for an ageing population will be a key area of discussion.

Marti Barletta – author of Marketing to Women – will discuss the potential of a growing 50- to 70-year-old female market that is yet to be fully addressed by design, and will talk about gender in design. Speaking from Chicago, she claims, ‘From a consumer perspective, women are generally more responsive to design.’

US consumer product design group Smart Design will be talking about what it is like to design for a female demographic that is over 50 and over 80 years old respectively, the latter being more healthcare-based.

In a separate focus, the conference will look to design to solve transportation problems. Vogel will speak about the emerging transference of transport solutions between America and China. He says, ‘Commuting by bicycle is now becoming less popular in China and more popular in America.’

This topic will instruct the global outlook of the conference. Vogel says, ‘Most European countries have a different perspective on China. In the US, there is a fear of China, yet they’re investing in our debts. It’s a very interesting dynamic. Most designers have to interact with China for manufacture, but don’t look to them for design.’ This is something he would like to see approached.

The conference will provide a platform for speeches, forums, interactive workshops and debate under the umbrella issue of polar opposites. An accompanying design gallery will display the winners of the recently entitled Polar Opposites: IDSA International Design Excellence Awards and new products, including the Balance Sport Wheelchair, a wheelchair basketball prototype.

The 2008 IDSA National Conference will be held from 10-13 September at the Biltmore Resort and Spa, Phoenix, US

IDSA International Design Excellence Awards

• 35 gold winners

• 76 entries silver

• 94 bronze

• Bowers & Wilkins took gold for its Zeppelin iPod dock

• Solutions Branding and Design Companies AG won silver for its TakeOff children’s buggy, which doubles as a trolley

• The Sanctuary, a Bluelounge-designed product, won bronze. It allows users to charge their mobile, iPod and personal digital assistant simultaneously

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