In this 12 minute interview Clemens Weisshaar exposes some interesting point of views on the design process: software as integral part of the product, complexity of parameters to achieve proper sustainability, customization vs mass production, the use of new materials, and the need for conducting several tests.
Computing is more and more embedded in daily activities around the Western world – that’s not a new concept to anyone – but according to Weisshaar is becoming part of the product itself. For car and aviation industries it is a common aspect, but through their work, Kram and Weisshaar are bringing these methodologies to less complex products such as furniture items. Writing code to integrate finite element analysis into the first phases of the design process can provide a deeper understanding of parameters that usually are handled when “the designer is not in the room”. Software becomes an integral part of the design process. Not just as a representation tool, but as a smart one, an enabler for more complexity and providing deeper understanding of the morphology of the design.
The complexity of parameters to achieve proper sustainability is usually an engineering problem. Life cycle (LCA) or cradle-to-grave analyses are parameter-based assessments that cover every aspect of the product, since the material extraction, to distribution, to recycle. If embraced by the design point of view I think that it might become a more powerful tool. Because one of product design major concerns is the experience of use, other parameters – such as energy consumption, parts exchange, personal /social impact, or hierarchy of use in the system of products – can be incorporated and expand the analysis to a more complex and dynamic one.
“The age of mass production hasn’t stopped – we’re more and more people on this planet, so we can’t customise products for everybody.”
I agree that customization cannot happen for everyone at the moment, nor it will because there are some classes of products that it is not competitive enough. But customization is evolving in the last 30 years from the first steps given by the companies as a response to more informed consumers. While the first wave of customization was commanded by the companies in the B2C sector, in the last decade there are several trends that are expanding the potential for customization market: consumers are way more informed and proactive, increasing competition in machine makers are cutting down the prices, there is more research in the field by designers and of course there is the power of open-source movement. All those players combined will balance the market for mass customization when comparing to mass production.