Industrial Design: Discussing the Future
The Russian Creative Week took place in Gorky Park in Moscow on August 26-29. The platform provided a single space for an open dialogue among experts and professionals involved in the development of Russia’s creative sector. A meeting with Maksim Chashchin and Elena Panteleeva, representatives of the 2050.LAB National Centre for Industrial Design and Innovation, took place within one of the event’s sessions. The experts talked about the essence of industrial design, the organisation of project-related work, and those who can be particularly interested in becoming designers.
Director of the Design Studio of the 2050.LAB National Centre for Industrial Design and Innovation
Development Director of the 2050.LAB National Centre for Industrial Design and Innovation
Maksim Chashchin is an expert in industrial design having more than 25 years of professional experience. He started his career at the Likhachev Factory, a giant enterprise in the automotive industry, and worked at Art. Lebedev Studio. Many projects including the interior design for the Marussia and Aurus automobile brands were created under the guidance of Maksim Chashchin.
Today, Mr. Chashchin is the Director of the Design Studio of the 2050.LAB National Centre for Industrial Design and Innovation. The company positions itself as one of the leaders in the industry and works on projects in most different branches. The 2050.LAB team pays special attention to the design of public transport.
During the meeting, Elena Panteleeva, Development Director of the company, asked Maksim Chashchin a few questions about the main issues related to industrial design. Interestingly, the dialogue took place without pictures and bright presentations. As emphasized by the speakers, they strived to make the audience aware of the important thing by using that format: industrial design is not only about the outer appearance of objects.
What is industrial design?
Many people understand industrial design as the creation of the form and the ‘wrapping’ of the product. In fact, it presupposes much more tasks. At the project development stage, designers think about how to make the product not only beautiful and recognizable but also convenient, easy to use, functional, and justifying its price.
Industrial design is not a result but a large-scaled and multifaceted process aimed at solving a specific problem.
The process of industrial design can involve a different number of stages. Everything depends on the scale of the final product. For example, the design of an ordinary paper clip from the idea to the production may take about a week. However, if dealing with a car, the same process may take several years or even a decade.
Anyway, the first step in creating any product lies in design-focused research. The experts formulate the problem in society that can be solved by means of industrial design, identify the audience interested in the product alongside its features and needs. Based on the results of research, designers think about the existing ways of solving the formulated problem and about what product or service can meet the needs of society in the best way possible.
After one or more concepts of a new product appear, experts start making calculations. They research the market and study the legal framework of the country where they plan to launch the product. At that stage, the team’s task is to identify the most effective way to solve the problem.
After the designer understands exactly what the audience needs, he or she creates sketches by hand or digital means. After finding the right image, the team begins to create a 3D model or digital sample of the product. This is an exact ‘clone’ of the future project taking into account the proportions of dimensions, the exact colours, textures, and materials. After considering all the nuances, the experts have a clear understanding of the means and techniques that can be used to bring the idea to life. Thus, the production of the first prototypes of the product starts. Full-scaled production is launched only if the prototype meets all expectations.
What problems can industrial design solve?
Henry Ford is the person who not only worked out automobiles but also made them available to the general public. People dreamed about a ‘faster horse’ to spend less time on road trips. Henry Ford and his team created a car the price of which could be compared to that of a good horse. However, the car was much better in terms of its speed characteristics and comfort.
That story is a bright example demonstrating how industrial design solved the problem of freedom of movement in space. Moreover, the launch of mass production of cars contributed to the improvement of infrastructure in cities. More high-quality roads appeared there and the factories and car showrooms provided the population with a huge number of new jobs.
Good industrial design is always convenient. For example, a folding sofa saves space. The location of buttons on the remote control or phone is adapted to a person’s hand. The pen is designed to fit in a jacket pocket.
As emphasized by Maksim Chashchin, everything in the world is not perfect. Sometimes a designer focuses on solving one problem and may unconsciously contribute to the emergence of new problems. For example, the redundancy of cars resulted in environmental degradation worldwide. However, a good specialist is always in the process of finding better solutions and improving existing things.
‘Not to harm’ is one of the key principles in design and many other professions. Therefore, when looking for solutions, a specialist always carefully considers the pros and cons of introducing certain technologies. He or she seeks to bring more use to the world than probable harm.
Today, the issues of not only using but also disposal of the product come to the forefront. Designers pay much attention to the future of their products after their expiration date. For example, electric cars powered by special batteries are becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Their batteries work efficiently for several years. When the battery no longer has enough power to keep the electric car running, it can still be used as a storage device for functioning sources of renewable energy.
How does design influence people’s lives?
Design can give people emotions, form certain habits, and even change one’s thinking about certain things.
Recently, the 2050.LAB team created a concept of a double-decker electric train called AIRSCP_ (derived from ‘airscape’) with panoramic glazing. According to its designer, he first thought of a new experience of moving around the city after the opening of the Moscow Central Circle (MCC). That railway circle has existed for a long time but only recently a number of new stations appeared there and the space around them was improved. Old garages and abandoned buildings were demolished and some industrial facilities were turned into trendy creative centres. As a result, MCC passengers got new breathtaking views of Moscow.
When creating the concept, 2050.LAB designers wanted not only to develop a passenger-friendly train but also to show people Moscow from a new perspective.
Travelling in buses and Moscow Metro often exhausts people. Maksim Chashchin believes that some design solutions can not only fix these problems but also make people look at the world in a new way, draw inspiration from the beautiful, and feel love for their city, country, and life.
How much does the success of a business depend on the quality of design?
According to the definition given by the World Design Organization, industrial design is a strategic problem-solving process that drives innovation, builds business success, and leads to a better quality of life through innovative products, systems, services, and experiences. As emphasized by Elena Panteleeva and Maksim Chashchin, when solving entrepreneurial problems, much depends on the quality of product design.
People willingly buy functional things satisfying their needs or bring positive emotions.
Emotions here are no less important than the functionality of the product. One of the important criteria of good design is that the consumer is not disappointed after buying the product. If a person bought a car or any other thing and immediately figured out how to use it, if the purchase met his or her expectations and gives him or her joy for a long time, it means that the designer has coped with the task well.
In addition, the legend accompanying the product when it enters the market is of great importance in design. On the one hand, it is important to make sure that the beautiful story won’t be deceptive. Otherwise, people will be disappointed in the purchased product and will experience negative emotions. On the other hand, competently formed ‘myths’ can attract whole lines of buyers.
However, one should understand clearly that even the brightest advertising will not attract customers if they do not need that product.
Designers observe people a lot and conduct surveys and tests in order to understand the needs of their customers. Before launching the production of any project, they create test versions of the product for the target audience.
The 2050.LAB has a workshop where its participants create models of various objects using cardboard, medium density fiberboard, and other materials. Recently, the centre’s team developed and presented a new interior design for a train car. To make it as comfortable as possible for passengers, specialists conducted a series of tests involving a large number of people. They offered their colleagues, family members, friends, and acquaintances to sit on sample seats, use a prototype phone charger, climb the top shelf by using the ladder, stretch their legs, reach for the shelves, and perform many other actions familiar to train passengers. Thanks to such tests, designers can identify successful and unsuccessful solutions at an early design stage and fix all drawbacks before the mass implementation of the project.
Why shouldn’t there be much design?
Dieter Rams, a legendary industrial designer, formulated 10 principles of good object design. They have become the ‘golden’ rules for many professionals. One of the principles is: “Good design is as little design as possible”.
Another well-known principle says: “Good design is often invisible. Bad design often stands out”.
Elegance and smartness is not always the main indicator of beauty. Excessive ornamentation can offend the eye, irritate, or stress a person in everyday life. Good design is primarily aimed at creating a comfortable and harmonious atmosphere.
Creating an externally simple design can be very difficult. Simple shapes and textures often convey a deep philosophical meaning.
Moreover, the more fashionable and ‘scandalous’ the design is, the quicker it will become obsolete. Today’s world is changing at an incredible pace and fashion trends are changing together with it. Today’s innovative solutions may turn out to be completely tasteless tomorrow. That is why it is so important for innovative design solutions to be based on traditional time-tested principles. One can find inspiration and harmony of shapes both in wildlife and in objects of cultural heritage.
How to find yourself in the world of design?
Design is one of the most demanded professions in the labour market today. However, one should go in for design only when guided by your heart, believes Maksim Chashchin. Designers can’t do without inner motivation, a sincere desire to create something new, and a love for people.
A designer is a researcher finding new questions and looking for answers constantly. He or she is an inventor who wants to make life better for all those around. A designer is an artist who is interested in bringing new aesthetics to the world by creating something new, not by copying successful models.
According to Maksim Chashchin, if you become a designer consciously, you need to be very serious about choosing where you will study. Competition in the professional market is too high. To be successful, a specialist needs not only talent but also a great deal of knowledge and skills.
When choosing a university, the future designer should pay attention to two key aspects: the amount of academic hours of practical classes and the personalities of those who will teach professional disciplines.
Practical experience is fundamentally important in design. It is impossible to master that profession from textbooks and lectures only. A designer accumulates the necessary skills and also forms a certain mentality in the process of working on concrete projects.
A few decades ago, mastering design as a profession at a high level was quite difficult. Designers subscribed to foreign magazines and visited exhibitions abroad to keep up with the times. Today, a similar approach to global design culture is also important. At the same time, the new generation has incomparably more opportunities for online self-development. Books, courses, videos, and virtual museums of different countries are accessible for free or at a relatively low cost. All that helps people immerse themselves in the nuances of the profession.
Why is design the ‘profession of the future’?
Everything that industrial designers create today will become part of people’s lives. Maksim Chashchin believes that the main task of every person on Earth is to live in harmony with the world and shape a happy future for new generations. That is why humanity still lives and develops. People give birth to new people, build roads, houses, and bridges, make discoveries, improve education, and preserve and enrich cultural heritage.
Representatives of all professions somehow contribute to creating a better world and forming a more comfortable space for society.
At the same time, many professions undergo changes today. They transform to meet the realities of the modern world. Some professions are gradually disappearing because people in those areas are being replaced by artificial intelligence. Algorithms cope with routine tasks better than we do. However, design is a sphere where human participation is simply irreplaceable. Artificial intelligence can become only an assistant performing some monotonous and mechanical actions. However, no one can understand what people really need better than people themselves.
According to Elena Panteleeva, in the near future, we will witness the rapid development of the generative design. That is a fundamentally new design technology based on the use of software capable of generating solutions to problems independently and offering a choice of three-dimensional models that meet the given conditions.
The speakers unanimously agreed: the field of design will certainly include new technologies. However, it will always be human-oriented.
Marina Volynkina, Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov