Materials, Tools, and the Designer

I’d like to go back to the subject of Erik’s example about material vs. tool vs. designer with the tool being a hammer, wood the material, and the carpenter the specific “designer.” Though it seems clear, remember we reached a point where the line begins to blur between material and tool; for example, a hammer can be made of steel and wood, so now wood is both a tool and material.

Then we talked about tools and materials with respect to the designer. That is, rarely will two different designers, or carpenters in our example, create the same product though they may use the same tools and materials. And although it is important to have quality tools and materials, just because a designer has both does not guarantee a quality product. Furthermore, a great designer could create a superior design in spite of lacking certain tools or materials. This then brought the focus to the designer and the designer’s skills. The example we used was that I could use as many of the best golf clubs in the world, but chances are Tiger Woods, using only 2 clubs, would still probably beat me in a round of golf.

Then could we not say something like a designer in terms of skills, creativity, and knowledge, is nothing more than a complex tool, but a tool or collection of tools nonetheless? A designer is just the human element of available tools for designing and creating something?

1 Comment

  1. thismarty

    Great observations, Laura. Your observation that a designer can serve as a tool for creation is especially interesting to me.

    In that they serve to create things for clients, to the specifications of those clients, designers are very different from artists; who work to pursue their own, uncompromised visions. In this respect, a designer can be thought of as something of an implement.

    But when you add Erik’s ideas about the Reflective Designer, it is clear that a good designer isn’t an unthinking autonomatic tool, happy to create crap for a client who asks for crap. Rather, a good designer has a sense of artistry and of a mission to educate and inform their clients so that the products of their collaboration add something new and honest and beautiful to the world.

    Good designers are tools of creation that serve their clients by improving commerce in some way, but they are also tools of creation that serve society by improving the quality the world of designed things.


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