British Council-Industrial design

British Council

British Council-Industrial design



Transcript of the podcast

Interviewer: We are often asked to see things such as the Mini, the classic Coca Cola bottle or – more recently – the iPod, as objects which are as likely to be exhibited in an art gallery as praised for their technological features. John McMaster – an industrial designer himself argues against this point of view. John, so, industrial design – art or science

JM: Well – I think that’s not really a fair question…It’s not that I doubt that the objects you mentioned are actually quite beautiful things in themselves – but what I want to ask, is why is it that we regard these things as being attractive

Interviewer: Go on

JM: Well – I’m a great believer in the saying form follows function

Interviewer: Which means

JM: That things are attractive – their form is beautiful – because they have a function. A designer has to think of the function first, of how the object works, and how to make it work, and from that, the simplest – and best – form will follow. The idea that a lot of industrial design is a form of art is at best misleading, and at worst, dangerous

Interviewer: Why do you say that

JM: There are a lot of people being attracted to the field without the kind of knowledge necessary

Interviewer: How do you mean

JM: Well, for example, I’ve been approached by one manufacturer to help design a car

Interviewer: That’s good

JM: Well, no it isn’t really…of course I’m flattered by the attention, but all my work has been with computers. I know how they work, and therefore the best way to design them. I know next to nothing about autombile mechanics – so wouldn’t really know where to start designing a car

A: The skills aren’t transferable

JM: Design skills are transferable, but they have to be backed up by technical expertise.Interviewer: But what about a designer like, say, Philippe Starck? He’s designed everything from motorbikes to skyscrapers to teaspoons

JM: Yes, but he’s not really an industrial designer in the classic sense. He designs the look of objects – after someone else has done all the hard work! Alec Issigonis – who designed the first Mini – trained as an engineer, not a designer. That was why it was such a revolutionary car. Jonathan Ive is often credited for having designed the iPod, the digital music player, but he actually worked with a team of hardware engineers. The CocaCola bottle we know and love today was actually pretty different at first – it went through a lot of changes before it became the iconic piece of design that it is now

Interviewer: So you’d say it’s more science than art

JM: I think – the reason why I think industrial design is so fascinating, and such a great area to work in – is precisely because it blurs the boundaries between science and art….it’s neither – and it’s both

Interviewer: John McMaster, thank you

JM: Thank you


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British Council-Industrial design
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