By Marcus Martinez
You see…the straw turns like ‘this’ to create a handle so older people can carry it comfortably” said a local Boston High school student as he described the sketch of his water bottle design at the end of the workshop I gave earlier this summer.
I’ll relate this in a moment. In one of my favorite TED talks, spacecraft designer Burt Rutan created what I call my ‘skipping record question’ “what inspires the people who will be our great leaders later?”. Using the four year ‘Aviation Renaissance’ to illustrate the point, how over 39 countries developed aircrafts shortly after The Wright Brother’s first passenger flight in 1908. Rutan lists his childhood inspirations of the Jet age and the Missile age that rattled a deep urge to question, explore and risk. He later sagely advises we should demand more of our industries, and what we call innovation. That the youth should be looking forward to ‘explorations, colonization and breakthroughs’, not the latest screen size on a phone.
Yet, where do we place our responsibility as a design industry? Has the post-recession design culture suppressed our voice and vision in order to maintain stability? What’s at stake when questioning or seeing boldly is not part of the process?
Back to the students in the workshop this summer. After a slideshow discussion, they were invited to apply what they learned towards a design problem. They were given the option of creating a water bottle for either a brand like BMW or Whole Foods, a bottle for an active lifestyle, or one for someone with limited dexterity, for example, an elderly person. There were only two that were chosen: sustainable themes, and overwhelmingly a bottle designed for an elderly person. Could this be an indicator that this next generation already sees the value in designing for someone else, a greater good?
With no burden of sales and rejection, empathetic decisions and values came naturally to them. How can we maintain these impulses?
What would the world be like if inspiring the future was a fundamental goal?
And Mr. Rutan, I can say that the first poster I ever bought with my own money was of Kelly Johnson’s SR-71, thank you for inspiring.