Last night marked the second and final edition of The Design Sessions, The Jackal’s reader event hosted by Oris in their Pop-Up on South Molton Street. This time around, the subject was design and technology, and how the two lend themselves implicitly to each other.
On the panel, hosted by our very own Editor in Chief Robin Swithinbank, was Rolf Studer, CEO of Oris, eyewear designer Tom Davies and curator at the V&A Rory Hyde, whose new exhibition The Future Starts Here explores the design projects shaping the world of tomorrow. The discussion ranged far and wide, from the ethics of technological advancement, to the way good design stays at the heart of all new technology projects.
Robin Swithinbank: To kick things off: how do you think technology will change the way design is considered?
Tom Davies: I’m thinking about how to get technology into glasses frames. When I design glasses with technology in the frames, my job is to make them look as normal as possible. The rules of style won’t change, but what they actually do will be affected so much by technology: I’m trying to create glasses that beam images directly onto the lenses. The revolution will technological, but I don’t think design will change much. The design will have to accommodate the technology.
Rolf Studer, CEO of Oris
Rolf Studer: We only make mechanical watches at Oris. We were one of the first companies to only focus on mechanical watches, in the 1980s. It would be a betrayal of our DNA if we came out with a smart watch. So the question is, where will Oris go if it doesn’t go digital? How do we progress? Our watches can now measure depth and altitude manually, so we’ve been innovative without going digital. I appreciate the changes in technology, but I also think that we, the human race, must push on with the conventional side of things, because that’s where emotion lies. You can’t emotionally connect to digital technology.
TD: I don’t think anyone will need a smart watch anyway, because as soon as I’ve developed my smart glasses they’ll be obsolete.
RS: Rory, what did you discover about the future of technology and design when you made The Future Starts Here?
Rory Hyde: I feel like I have to advocate for digital here. One of the most interesting projects we’ve got in the exhibition is called the Google Clip, which is a small camera that you clip on to your front, and it takes pictures throughout the day. It’s a post-smartphone product. When the smartphone was created it sucked everything in, from cameras to computer games. This camera is a move past that, as it just does one thing really well. Hopefully it means the end to ‘Swiss Army knife’ phones, and a move back to products that last a bit longer and are built a bit better.
RS: How pivotal has design been in getting us to this point? The internet and smartphones have changed the way we behave, but would any of that have been possible without really smart design?
RH: Apple is one of most valuable companies in the world. Can you imagine an Apple product being badly designed? They’re inseparable. That’s probably the best argument for good design. But equally, one of the questions we ask in the exhibition is: we’re all connected, but do we feel lonely? We can speak to anyone anywhere in the world instantly, but has it improved our lives and our relationships? We’ve made some incredible achievements but let’s look at it from the other side now. What have we gained and what have we lost?
RStuder: That’s the reason the Swiss watch industry has been doing so well recently. People long for a product they can emotionally connect with. That gives them joy instead of just serving as a function. This is becoming more and more important the more digital things get.
Tom Davies, eyewear designer
RS: Are considering human emotions and relationships something we need to be aware of as we move into a more technological future, or are there other considerations that we need to be concerned about?
RH: One good example is the driverless car; we’re all philosophising about how it’s going to change the world. Everyone’s working on the technical problems it presents: how it’s going to work. But I’d say the problem more so is how we relate to it. Are we going to trust it? Are we going to put our kids in it alone to drop them off at school? These are the questions no one seems to be working on right now.
TD: I think it’s all sci-fi thinking to me. These questions will get answered. The world is going to change and I embrace everything.
RS: In that case, does that mean we develop a trust in technology as time goes by?
TD: It’s my view that nature sorts itself out, and I just get on with it.
RStuder: Since the beginning of time we’ve been complaining about change, it’s just the way it goes.
RH: I think we have a bit more responsibility than that, rather than just abdicating decision to these big tech companies. We have a responsibility to look after ourselves and to not simply take things on face value.
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