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Mark Silver

New York, United States

Designer (Product Design)

Member since March 10, 2008

  • Reflections

    Well-being, Industrial Design

    Having just completed the Parsons Product Design thesis program, I can't help but reflect:

    Called "A Good Life," the program is conceived - ostensibly - as a partnership between regional not-for-profits and thesis students. Pedagogically, the emphasis is less on finding an NFP as it is on finding oneself.

    The process begins with the thesis coordinator's asking students to identify their passion and a problem. "Who is your user?"

    It occurs to me that this very natural, seldom questioned methodology is a bit problematic. The very nature of our discipline seems to be pessimistic. Without denying the power of design to make lives better, I still feel compelled to ask if we might rather design a glass for the water that's there, if you catch my meaning. Why are we inclined to see people's lives as half empty?

    The method of instruction propagated by the Product Design department at Parsons encourages (intimates?) the following line of thought...

    1] You are not like me, therefore something is wrong with you;

    2] You cannot be happy the way you are, and you don't know how to redress this fact;

    3] I do (because I read a magazine article).

    Granted, my model is a little cynical, but I'm trying to be polemic here. As designers, it's easy to feel good about ourselves when we've shaped the very problem our products answer.

    The question I leave open is this: can we design for the half-full?

    (I think so.)

  • Hi Marc, it's Oz. I understand your doubts and can easily relate to them. I also have some difficulties (along the past 3.5 years of school...) to walk and follow specific guide lines, that some times maybe even seem that we force them on people outside the designers community - people we define as users, while they don't define themselves like that at all.... well, my experience taught me to first LISTEN, absorb all the information i can get from any direction. then FILTER and take the good things you like from every place you are, situation you're in or people you get to meet. And then finally ADOPT and IMPLEMENT only what you like and think that would take you forward to be in that half-full glass. what you don't like, leave to those other places,people you encountered, and they have enriched you, which obviously you have enriched them with some wisdom too along the way. that is how i basically look at school. finally, the only one who determines what kind of designer you'll be and who your users are - is you. at the end you are becoming kind of a user of all the situations you are in, and you get to choose the problems to deal with. design is not about forcing a solution to a problem you have to dig out of the ground. like chess it is about taking care of present situations while trying to create a future scenario. but like in chess, we are not alone, so the challenges keep surfacing. these challenges, those needs are for me the half-full you are talking about. anyway, cheers man, and congratulations for graduating...

  • In response to interesting..., posted by oz etzioni,
    in the thread Reflections


    I began my educational career in Architecture. I loved thinking architecturally - designing - but was put off by the community of professional and aspiring architects around me. I encountered a tremendous sense of (self-)importance. Hubris. Ego.

    You see, people build buildings with or without architects. What distinguishes vernacular building from Architecture is merely Architecture - in other words, its only noteworthy value proposition is itself. [I encourage you not to conflate the role of Architecture with the power of money or the advance of technology.] The argument for Architecture is circular.

    If you compare the stakeholders of vernacular building respectively to the stakeholders of Architecture, you see a disproportionate emphasis on the architect him- or herself. Ego.

    Product Design, a relatively new discipline, has piggybacked on the rationalization of Architecture, both for better and for worse. Product Design walks a dangerous line... the Product Designer, like the Architect, can get a big head. The Product Designer should be the humble servant, not the lofty bestow-er.

    I think the Product Designer needs the consumer far more than the consumer needs the Product Designer. Our ego is almost always at odds with our ability to offer meaningful designs (which is to say, meaningful to the so-called "user").

    On that last point, I think the most valuable lesson of post-Modernism is that the relationship is not designer-user, but designer-interpreter, designer-adapter, designer-arbiter. It is really through these - interpretation, adaptation, arbitration - and not through design that objects gain existential meaning.

    I'm sorry if the tone of my response borders on self-loathing, but if one wants to make the argument that he is designing for someone other than himself, I think a little modesty is in order.

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My Interests

  • Industrial Design
  • Environmental Design
  • Communication Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Audio/Visual Design