airing it out.

“Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with old age. Nothing does – except wrinkles. It’s true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place. ” (Abagail Van Buren)
[WARNING: This is a giant post!]
Arnold Palmer is the most amazing thing I’ve ever had – lemonade + sweet tea. Sweet tea by itself isn’t really my favorite, but the second you add lemonade the whole world changes. I’ve been thinking more about the role that designers and products play in people’s lives – especially as we age and make that transition from being independent and young to needing ‘assistive technology.’ I know it might be vain of me, but I think designers are pretty freaking important. We serve as creators, givers, liaisons between engineers and customers, and everyday superheroes. It’s almost like we get to play a little bit of God by being able to improve people’s lives and change they way they feel when they wake up in the morning. A simple design like the walker gave an elderly person hope, happiness, and the ability to get up and go places. Not to mention that most of the general population is rather oblivious to what an “industrial designer” is, and we do a lot of great work in a behind-closed-doors fashion.When I was previously thinking about why I wanted to become a designer, I focused on my own selfish reasoning and what lead to me choosing the career that I have, and although it is a perfect blend of creativity and problem solving, it’s also about caring about the people that surround me.
We have the power to change the world with our designs. That’s a pretty big deal.

Kevin mentioned in class today that there’s a paid internship up for grabs at a firm that does exhibits. Portfolios and resumes are due on Monday, and I’m really stoked because exhibits and/or spaces are something I have a pretty big interest in. I remember when Lorenc Yoo came and lectured last year, and I was really surprised that “space” was something industrial designers can get involved with. Telling a story through space, color, and texture is so much more involving than one single product. I just don’t know if industrial design is the right degree to do “space” with vs. an interior design degree…? Sometimes I feel like so many of my fellow students have so much more experience or opportunities and I wonder if I should be more aggressive about trying to find design-related work/internships/stuff right now. That same topic came up with a friend of mine from home yesterday – we both had non-major-related jobs this summer and we both feel far behind. Tyna got hired for freelance stuff, which is crazy awesome! Megan, Jesse and I are thinking about starting our own freelance agency which would rock. I think I’m ready to start getting out there and do “real work.”

As we progress with studio this semester we’re supposed to have a distinct ‘style’. I think that having a distinct style is more about being able to see a continual thread through-out a designer’s work and to be able to say, “Oh, that’s an Emma Thea design!”, but not exactly “Oh, that green and blue color palette with maple wood components is the only crap that Emma ever makes.” A friend of mine passed on this interesting post that discusses that topic, filled with insights from ‘real’ designers and digital artists. I’ve noticed that my preferences in design aesthetics have changed a lot. When I was younger I was really into the overly ornate decorations that came from Victorian-period design. Then I switched to overly modern stuff – like all chrome, muted colors, and heated floors [I think this transition was my freshman year of high school with the ‘Pink House’ we had in SA]. Right now I’m really a fan of ‘modernized classics,’ like apartments with exposed brick walls and ductwork, but filled with sweet, simplistic furniture. My own apartment reeks of Ikea – I’m all about plain, straight stuff with texture and color as accents. I like the beauty of natural materials (like the wood bench I made sophomore studio), and I dig the way that exposed brick shows its wear in such a graceful manner.

‘Graceful wear’ sounds so much better than ‘getting old.’ I’m not afraid of dying, I’m just really creeped out by “aging.” I know that the stereotype of getting older is that you’ve sort of paid your dues and then people are meant to respect you, but I feel like I should be able to garner respect as I age – not just deserve it because I’m 50. David wants me to get down to the nitty-gritty and explore my fear of getting old, and see how I can translate that into a product instead of just going with the cheesy hot/cold vest I attempted to propose to him today in studio [I mean, I really DO get cold easily in restaurants and so does my Grandma, but whatever, man]. Everyone knows what happens when we age, and it’s a natural process, so I don’t know why I’m so against it. Most likely my aversion to aging will change as I age and I experience the wonders of life [or something like that]. Perhaps it’s immature, but I don’t want to have to deal with the physical effects that the mistakes I’m making now will take on my body in the future. Listening to loud music, reading books in poor light, not eating enough carrots, etc. are all going to directly affect me when I’m older. My great grandmother is 99 years old and ridiculously amazing – she can see just as well as I can, she reads more than I do, and she’s still sharp. Unfortunately, she has brittle bones, dentures, hearing aides in both ears, and I think her taste buds have sort of lost their power because she hates the food at her nursing home. I love her, but I hate having to yell at her to have a conversation with her. It’s also hard for me personally because I can’t explain things about my life very well to her because she’s not familiar with blogs or all the new-fangled crap we have.
I don’t want to be old for so many reasons. I don’t want to be left in a nursing home without anyone to visit me, essentially biding my time until I die. I don’t want to be so out-of-touch with what’s going on in the world with technology and science that I can’t relate to my grandchildren. I don’t want my family to think I’m a burden. I don’t want my grandchildren to think I’m icky. I don’t want to have to rely on people. I don’t want part of my body to fail me, while the rest of me remains functional.
I’ve already had to experience joint problems because I tore my meniscus and my ACL playing indoor soccer in high school. I’ve had to deal with the repercussions and limitations of that injury at such a young age, that I can barely contemplate the idea of my body further failing me. I don’t usually talk about my knee because its something I don’t like to bring up because it makes me feel weak. But it genuinely sucks. I was perfectly healthy, happy, and young and in a split-second in the last five minutes of an indoor soccer game between two teams from the same high school my whole life changed. I know a lot of people recover better than I did with physical therapy, and I should probably try to work harder to strengthen my knee now, but its difficult for me to come to terms with the whole ordeal. My knee sometimes keeps me from doing things I want to, and it deters me from working out as much as I wish I could. Recently its been doing this strange thing when it feels locked up, and I can’t quite stretch it out – and then I’ll wake up one morning and it’ll feel fine again.
I don’t want more things to go wrong – especially not things that my current actions impact, because then I would feel even worse.
And I just can’t see how older people with so many medical ailments can be happy being old. So this is my challenge – understand how and why old people are happy, or what could make them happy in their lives and in their homes, and help create a solution for their (sometimes unnoticed) need.
This project is such a challenge – how do you make a solution for a problem that people aren’t willing to admit they have? How do you create something for a population of people that aren’t dumb at all, but aren’t the sharpest either?
A kind older, active gentleman came to studio to talk to us today. It was refreshing to hear from him because he broke a lot of “old people stereotypes” – he’s a veteran with a crazy positive attitude, he’s 82 and plays tennis three days a week, and he uses a computer, GPS, and an iPod [as in, he knows how to take CDs, put them on his computer, and put the songs on his iPod – which even some younger “older adults” aren’t very confident about]. His two favorite designs were the pill box for every day of the week and the walker. Apparently the pill box is really handy as a dual product that not only separates their medicine, but also fills them in on what day it is, which I can’t even keep track of so maybe I should get one…
We’ve been discussing products with dual, sneaky purposes and how to market products so that they appeal to everyone, but also happen to be really great for older people in our studio section. I feel a lot more inspired and a little bit more into this project topic after our guest speaker today. I also really miss my grandparents and I’m very grateful that I’ve been lucky enough to know all four of my grandparents AND a great-grandmother – and that they’re currently still here. Visiting them for spring break was the right thing to do, and so was going to Minnesota for Great Grandma Emma’s birthday.
Now I just have to try to think of some sort of concept, some way to make people happier, some way for the older people around me to open up and admit the truth about getting older and their own fears… and make something successful.

Geeze, I’ve been thinking a lot lately and with nothing to show for it. I think more than I “do.” I’ve always spent a lot more time thinking through situations before I take action. Even some of my more “spontaneous” things have come from a lot of (secret) thinking. Some stuff’s been going down in my non-studio personal life and it’s been highly distracting this past week, but it feels rather nice to get a lot of these design-related thoughts finally off my chest. I’m afraid that I peaked on the first project, and in order to live up to that project I’m going to try too hard and end up with crap (not that the first project was THAT freaking great, but I was genuinely proud of it). I’m afraid I’m a “bad designer” somehow. I don’t really know what qualifies someone as being a “good designer,” but I hope I have it …Self-defeating prophecies are SO not the way to go, so excuse me while I yell at myself for not trying harder and doing better research [although everyone generally knows what happens to people as they age]. I’m having problems putting time for “thinking” into my schedule – good thing you can do it anywhere, then, eh?

[ps. I’m sorry to anyone that I’ve been snappy to lately – I know like it looks like I’m not doing anything when I’m just chilling by my computer and it seems odd that I act like you’re bothering me (because you WERE), but I’ve clearly been thinking about a lot of things (see above). I love you all.]

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