Video: The designer as accelerator (Daniel Charny)
Jane Pavitt: Thank you. I love this term, mediagenic. Our third speaker this evening is Daniel Charny. Daniel is a senior tutor in design products at the Royal College, whose work ranges - he trained in industrial design - but his work ranges across furniture and [unclear] design, to curation and writing and teaching. And he' s been advisor to a number of museums, on building design collections and it' s not intentional that I' m, kind of, shifting the debate toward the topic of museums but, given Gareth' s last comment, I thought it was an apposite moment to introduce it. And Daniel is going to talk about the designer as catalyst. Thank you.
Daniel Charny: Well, it' s the title that came up in my conversation with Lauren on the phone and, yes I do a provocation [unclear]. Since then I think I would' ve changed it to accelerator, but I' ll keep catalyst for the meantime. But it' s more to do with, I think, this idea of contemporary practise, there' s one thing that hasn' t changed and, I don' t think will change, and it' s the fact that designers bring in the conceptualising element. The ability to take ideas that other people have, the ability to really tap into the one thing that the client has said, among many other things, to pick something a user has said, to pick something the industry has made so many times and keeps on breaking. No, no, pick on one thing and conceptualise the change, and this is the one thing that has always happened, from the Tiffany to the cars, to, if you' re a brand or you' re an anonymous designer, this is the thing that designers can do and this is what' s being, now, touted as design thinking and design being sold as, kind of, a way of doing things. This is the thing that the talent, that the drawing, being able to, kind of, pour out an amazing drawing of a whole city without even getting up from your chair, like [unclear] or people like that who can conceptualise something that we know in a different way, challenge the paradigm, change the typology through this conceptualising. I think this will remain and the thing that museums do at its best is keep things that remind us of these changes.
So, now to the things that are changing. I think one of the things; when I trained in industrial design in the late 80s, and worked in a kind of, contract office furniture, talking a lot with engineers during the 90s, always, you have an idea and then talk about how thick it will be, for months. This profile, this is it, you know, people touch it, this is the whole experience. We were taught, in industrial design, you are between the industry and the user, you must protect the user; that was the position of industrial design at that point. Since then - and just one more thing - from that time it still holds the ethos of the Eames statement that the designer is the perfect host; that was still, in the 80s, was still very strong.
I think, slowly - and this is the brand and this is the thing that' s happening with - to an extent that I can - the very ridiculous extent with the limited editions, which are really limited - is that the designers become the guest. From host, you become the guest, and this is kind of wearing off; this just isn' t leaving sometimes. And it' s time for the designer to be a bit more aware of what they bring onto the table and, therefore, the idea of the catalyst is something that' s always been there, but it' s also, I think, the way that a lot of young designers want to see themselves; as being able to be in the right place and, as soon as possible, within a process, to be that catalyst. To be involved in setting the brief, to be involved at that very important stage where things are started, because the influence of the brief on the result is immense.
I think, in terms of teaching, I' ve been involved in various types of teaching, and for me, one of the most important elements is the combination between the content of the brief and the way it' s presented. And this is the thing that in industry is beginning to be what, again, is called this design thinking element; trying to understand what designers do when they are presented with a brief, this kind of goal. Shifting the goalposts or re-writing the brief, this was part of the ethos of the celebrity as well, kind of, ' can you make me adore it?' , ' no' . But this is what you need, this kind of ethos of changing the brief and still succeeding. That was the greatest achievement I think.
Now the greatest achievement, I hope, will be more and more being able to set the brief together with the clients to be more ambitious and to really be about bringing in the change that fits, not just the change that demonstrates your creativity. So the catalyst is always part of the… comes from the idea of the two components; cannot function alone. The process cannot happen without this type of work, and I think in that sense, what it means for museums is that the criteria for what is shown and how that solution was reached is just as important as the solution.