22 October 2009

Is Blobject Dead?

Blobject, part millenial malaise, part pop-culture futurism, and mostly computer aided prototyping, we hardly knew ye.  What is a blobject?  It's roundish, fluid, a reductionist version, might fit the hand better, made of plastic in most cases and certainly suggests the future.  Target features a lot of this sort of thing in lamps, furniture, translucent vases, kitchen utensils.  Saw the original iMac?  That's a blobject.

Y2K might have scared you, but there were a lot of safe, roundish, and organic looking things that would ease the passage you could buy.  You could outfit yourself for life on the space station, your next home.  Did I say translucent, neon colored and plastic?  Good.

Looking at nature for inspiration is nothing new.  Organics in design makes sense.  We are DNA.  Ergonomics works and looks good.  In the case of the blobject, history happens.  What happened was the advent of mathematically perfect Bézier curves achievable in design programs in the last couple decades.  Instead of carving a perfectly aerodynamic form in modeling clay, a computer program could hit that perfect curve with infinite accuracy in a second.  Introduce this to 3D CAD programs, add the "less is more" modernist aesthetic, and you've got a design movement.  Costs less, anyone can make one.  History happens.

Many have tried to take credit for being the first (again) to be inspired by nature, and many have tried to take credit for the tools that made this new design possible.  Some were the first to popularize them.

Karim Rashid has certianly embodied the blobject in the same way Alexander Calder took his own design theory and made furniture, knives, forks, spoons, and pretty much everything around him a "Calder" object.  Rashid does interiors, wall coverings, chess pieces, chairs, drinking glasses, you name it.  More fashion for fashion sake, his work doesn't delve too deeply into simplifying function but suggests it a lot.  He suggests future.

Ross Lovegrove or "Captain Organic," is inspired by bone structure.  Convinced that the organic in design will change the world, his efforts span the gamut of table lights (photo at top), one piece stair cases and a concept of hanging your car on a sidewalk pole to cut down on parking space.  I'm awed by his passionate love for nature but after hearing the somewhat horrific description of producing and installing his staircase project, am not convinced organic is better in construction.  Nor do I see the power of the organic shape having any relevance at all to his parking idea other than the cars are teardrop shaped.

Visionary science fiction author, Bruce Sterling, saw the propaganda power of design and started the "Viridian" design movement.  Basically, design of human tools and objects based on nature.  He even claimed something along the lines of, "The blobject will take over the world."  His thinking was that if you harnessed the imagination of designers, you could change the world.  At the end of Viridian, Bruce claimed, "The world has moved on to something different."

Anish Kapoor.  You might know his Chicago Millennium Park sculpture, "Cloud Gate," or more commonly known as, "The Bean."  His blobjects are just blobjects.  Just the future feeling.  The pure math of the curve and the perfection of making that large scale.  This is the love of the future without propaganda, without  promises or expectations on the viewer.  It's just art and it's beautiful.  Sitting in Millennium Park.... perfect.  When his sculpture looks old fashioned, then we'll know we are in the future.

Much to the frustration of scientists, the term organic is abused and can't be reduced to a single aesthetic.  Fluid design is a more appropriate definition.  The blobject was a baby step in the direction of what is to come.  We are moving on.  Like large, colorful, geometric designs of the 60's that suggested a future.  Blobjects did a pop-culture-future-spoon-feed.  Visualizing data is more complex these days and it's effecting design.  It doesn't have symmetry, it's dense and it resembles nature more because we are nature.  Modernism sought an artificial world, postmodernism broke it down, now is the time to put it back together.  Now we can be honest with ourselves. Maybe now we can see we are nature.


Doug said...

It's not dead yet!


Ethan Smith said...
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