Design Revolution

Post from Jean Thilmany:

I’ve been reading a lot recently about how design—and by extension computer design tools—has the power to change the world on humanitarian and artistic levels.

You can read a lot about this at Engineering For Change. I’ve also written quite a bit about the burgeoning do-it-yourself design wave—check out www.shapeways.com and http://sketchup.google.com.

It was in this spirit of design that I read Doug Powell’s commencement address to the Class of 2012 College of Visual Arts, in St. Paul, Minn. Powell is a designer, strategist and entrepreneur who leads projects for clients in the health and nutrition fields. He also consults with a variety of cross-disciplinary teams on design-driven entrepreneurial projects.

Powell told the CVA class of 2012: “… it occurs to me that the essential question facing those of you graduating today is this: How can I apply my skills as a creative thinker—those skills that I have learned in my years here at CVA—to make a meaningful difference in the world around me? Your opportunity to make a difference is massive. And your potential to improve the human condition is epic. I believe this generation of creative thinkers—your generation of artists and designers—will change the world.”

His speech can be found on his blog at http://mergedesignblog.com/2012/05/05/college-of-visual-arts-class-of-2012/.

The problem is that the versy same computing tools that designers rely on can hold back the creative breakthroughs that today’s thinkers need, according to a professor well placed to make such a statement.

Hod Lipson, mechanical engineering professor and overall 3-D printing guru at Cornell University contends that today’s CAD, due to its nature, necessitate thinking in a linear way. Design tools can halt design because the designers themselves can’t wrap their mind around the shapes that can be printed today. In other words, they can’t “think outside the CAD box.”

Meanwhile, Lipson points out, 3-D printers aren’t bound by traditional manufacturing design. That, coupled with the do-it-yourself online design tools accessible to most anyone with a computer, will make for a design revolution in coming years.

An upcoming issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine will contain more on Lipson and his observations.

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The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

June 2012

Twitter from John Falcioni

Twitter from Engineering for Change

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