Cosentino asks, what constitutes originality in design?

Cosentino asks, what constitutes originality in design?

How do you define authenticity in design?

Cosentino is holding online debates while the design industry is working remotely
Cosentino is holding online debates while the design industry is working remotely

We've been shouting about how Cosentino Middle East is hosting online debates for the design industry.

One of the most recent episodes tackled the tricky issue of copyright.

For 'Copy That',  industry experts explored ideas of what constitutes originality in design, where the lines blur and when ‘stealing’ tips becomes blatant copying.

On the panel were (pictured left to right) Hani Asfour, dean of Dubai Institute of Design & Innovation (DIDI); Juan Roldan, product designer & assistant professor, College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at the American University of Sharjah and Dorian Pauwels, owner & CEO of ikonhouse, with Shereen Saif, founder of Alt+Shift and PR at Cosentino Middle East taking care of moderation.

How do you define authenticity in design?

Hani Asfour (HA): "Walter Benjamin, in the mid of the last century, questioned authenticity in the age of mass mechanical reproduction. According to him, an original work of art or product has authenticity whereas its reproduction lacks it because you lose the original through mass production. But this doesn’t preclude from the authenticity of the invention itself – the IP (intellectual property). And this is where we really need to focus, basically the design and the intellectual effort that took place to develop that concept.

"As a practising architect, it drives me crazy when clients say, 'Can you give us the concept and then we’ll decide what we want to do and it." Because our value is in the concept these days, it is no longer so much in the execution. And we need to change this [attitude in clients].

Juan Roldan (JR): "As an opposition to the industrial revolution and mass production, William Morris founded the Arts & Crafts movement in the latter half of the 19th century. Today in our postindustrial era, we are going through another revolution – the digital revolution.

"Talking about design authenticity in this age of digital design and craft, it would till follow the same principles as what Morris proposed: fitness of purpose, material integrity and individual expression. Authenticity is linked to a sense of craft whether it is digital or handcraft."

"At AUS we have tried to open the college to the industry and to create more added value through designing outside the classroom. And we face the same problems as Hani mentioned about clients wanting concepts. "

Dorian Pauwels (DP): "The design process is a continuum from the ideation/ conception to the creation of the unique prototype, until it evolves to become an industrial piece. In the idea and prototype stage, it still remains within the world of creativity and art.

"There is an intention in the world of art to keep things at a unique level if not extremely limited, even-numbered. In the world of design we are in the industrial and manufactured zone where by definition, quantities are not limited.

"When it comes to what is an authentic piece, it is a product that is produced along with the idea and intention of the creator (artist or designer) So if there is an intention in the concept about using specific materials, following a specific function and dimensions and if the product follows that then that is an authentic piece.

"In other words, if a product is produced along the restrictions of trademarks, licenses and patents, then it is an authentic product."

Understanding the designer’s creative process.

HA: "I start with research – the topic, history, look at as many precedents as possible. Then I try and find a narrative.

"I could find my inspiration from literature or any other field that inspires me, a song even that inspires me to tell a story around the project. Then I start to weave things together.

"Another big element of the process is intuition. If you ask Derren Brown the mentalist, he says intuition doesn’t exist and that you are actually only influenced by your environment. There is some truth in this because many times you catch yourself realizing that you were actually influenced by something. It may not be consciously. But you have to be conscious being of unconscious about being inspired by things around you. And then you start weaving things together to come up with ideas that will actually resonate with the needs of the client.

"So the missing part in my narrative is that I really talk to my client and ask them lots of questions. You really need to enter their lives and empathise with them at a very deep level because design should never be about self-expression. It should be about what the client wants -what are their pain points are and how you are trying to solve it.

"So combining all these strings together: the research, the narrative and the pain points of the client there is bound to be something that comes out of it.

JR: "In my design process I am quite intuitive in the beginning. John Cleese talks about his own creative process as an actor and comedian, operating in two modes: the open mode which is very relaxed and playful and the closed mode which it more rigid. Likewise, I like to start with the open mode. It is very intuitive and very random.

"Nothing is impossible and after a while I like to really narrow down the process by getting into the closed mode, trying to find the logic the story.

"The second phase of my creative process has to do with the materiality and suppliers – your allies. You can dream a lot and have crazy ideas but if you cannot execute it in the right time within the budget, it is pointless.

"So I operate between open mode where everything can happen and then go -to closed mode where you have to be practical cold-blooded. There is also a bit of storytelling in the process.

"I don’t believe in originality per se. Whenever I have a client or a student and their first aim is about making something original, I discourage that. Trying to do something original should not be the first thing that moves your creative force.

"And finally, empathy is a very important aspect of design."

Top three tips on staying on the right side of the fence when it comes to drawing inspiration and avoiding unintentional plagiarism.

HA:  "Know your history. Go back to it and study it deeply. Keep up with trends and see what your peers are doing. State your intention.

"Be self-reflective and honest with yourself. Have the humility to realize that a lot of your ideas have already been discovered and developed by someone else. So accept that as a failure you can learn from and build on."

JA: "Don’t always go with the first inspiration that strikes you and be comfortable with that. Dive deeper and explore the possibilities that design can offer.

"Stick to the problem. By sticking to the problem, the solution that surfaces will always end up being an original solution.

"Take the time to educate yourself to understand the craft, material and production process. This will provide an important base to creating something original."

DP: "Set a clear intention. Stick to your design concept. Build your own unique element into the design."

Keep an eye on Cosentino's home page for details of the next event: 

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