2017 Speaker Series - Technology

Whether we fear or embrace technology, it’s impossible to deny the fact that it is responsible for some of the greatest innovations in design and a crucial tool in approaching sustainability and safety. It’s also opened up a world of opportunity — in the way that we design, and the way we experience design. We asked three panellists to help us discuss how technology fast-tracks, dilutes or distracts us from solutions.

Virginia Fay is the founder of Patternsnap, a pattern-sourcing app that she launched in 2012 to assist remote designers access current (and regularly updated) patterns and textures. As an architect based in a small town in New Zealand, she was finding it increasingly difficult to source product information directly from specifier representatives. So based on that experience, she set up online sample library, “To make the creative process easier for designers,” Virgina says. “My belief is that using technology should make your job easier and free your time up to do the creative stuff,” she says, giving the example of bookkeeping software.

Ruder Novak-Mikulic of Regular Company made his second appearance at the Speaker Series. An industrial designer, he is also co-founder of Amsterdam-based start-up that is exploring solutions in smart ventilation and smart heating for the home. “Technology influences my workflow a lot — from software to 3D printing, to the way we communicate with clients and production facilities for example,” he shares.

Roger Sexton is Vice President Specifier Service at Xicato, a lighting brand specialising in LEDs. With more than 30 years experience in lighting across Europe and the US, he has seen a huge evolution in light sources. “Basic incandescent lamps were replaced by compact fluorescent lamps, then by metal halide lamps and recently by LEDs,” he explains. “The motive is energy saving — longer life and generally cost. Now with LEDs we can customise the light to personalise an atmosphere and enable fixture manufacturers to be much more creative. Also,” he adds, “light needn’t be one monolithic thing, you can interact with it,” referring to the fact that apps make this level of engagement and adjustment easily accessible.

When asked what the impact of technology is on our experience of spaces, the responses were varied. Virginia believes as the ability of technology increases, it recedes physically in the home, becoming “invisible, intuitive, less evident. The more digital and more connected we are — the home becomes a refuge. We have to design spaces where you can turn off.” Such as a beautiful sideboard that conceals a television, where “the technology is invisible, but there when you want it to access it.”

Compared to other industries, Ruder says, the impact of technology on furniture design is minimal, although he admits that “lots of things are happening in the background, which people don’t see, for example, in production processes. Some paradigms are changing.” Roger’s view is that energy efficiency in lighting opens up huge opportunities, for example in materials, as heat dispersal is less of an issue. This allows us to see LED lighting coming from a terracotta base — this combination of classical artistry and technology would previously have been impossible.

Technology can clearly open up space and time, but it certainly needs to be managed to avoid issues of isolation, security and privacy. Questioning our obsession to photograph everything, Virginia wonders “Are we really experiencing things?”.

“Pace can be a problem,” Ruder admits. “It’s becoming increasingly hard to filter information. There is hyperproduction of everything, so you always feel like you’re falling behind. Plus it’s harder to have reliable sources”. As a result, there is huge opportunity for coralling and curating information.

There is much potential for intuitive technology to assist more comfortable and healthful living. There are, for example, buildings that feature Bluetooth communication between sensors, air conditioning and lighting, so you always have optimum operating conditions. “Imagine a building in a state of homeostasis or equilibrium,” Roger suggests. “This is not science fiction, not the future. It’s here now.”

As for where technology is taking us, Virginia sees a movement towards being more crafted in our homes, “Possibly as a reaction to over-saturation to digital and mass production,” she says. Ruder agrees. “There will always be necessity for crafted stuff, art and handwork,” he says. “Design is somewhere between industrial design and art. Take this coffee table,” he said pointing. “It’s a combination. There is high-end technology, CNC milling where a robot does the ‘rough’ work, but still a craftsman has to finish this product and sand it for up to 10 hours. This combination will always be present in my opinion.”

Podcast Part 1


Podcast Part 2