THE ENGINEERING OF MAKING
THE ENGINEERING OF MAKING ©
The engineering of making encompasses one paradigm, and that is history. Engineering is really a science, the science of design, structure and mechanics, production and making. There are many forms of making, but the engineering of a product can determine the given aesthetic by presiding over its form and look from an integral perspective. History is the given paradigm, because theoretically we evolve as engineers to find new ways of calculating structure and creating new ways of dealing with tried and tested methods. We will look to the past for both approval and dignity for our new innovations. There is historical reference, to a given new design, and there is invention based on how we can further the subject, by being original. History means we can use the basis of the past as an example, and a conceptual framework for which new scientific theories can be constructed, as if we had never had a go before.
When history does not work is when we look at the tired state of some of our buildings, transportation networks or products. Sometimes we do get it wrong, and there are lessons to be learnt. When engineering does work is when innovation is applied, for we all know while the very first home computer looks basic and defunct today, its appeal lies in its aspirations, and in some ways we have lost something from the simplicity of the ZX Spectrum to today’s larger more unsatisfying PCs. This overlooks the marvellous engineering of Apple’s streamlined set of computers advancing the engineering of the home machine to one of a stylised item with a flat build-up allowing for the simplest and lightest computer ever before regaining the essence of the Spectrum because it holds an aspiration to innovate and forward technology. History defines us as a society, and the best designers leave us with daily contentment for their relief in a solution. What we must be careful of in the future is not to over extricate fashion for the sake of engineering, and its timeless attempts.
Engineering solves a scientific problem, and as such creates a new paradigm, at once based in history and separate from it, defining the age, by its practicality of a solution. When engineering is created for the sake of engineering we lose its aspiration to solve a required problem, and it becomes speculative. This could take the example of drones, made for commercial sale to the public. The idea is one of defence initially and then they become a ‘must have’ item and become cheaper to make because they are value-engineered to the point of losing their initial beauty. Plastic and man-made polymers are guilty of so much ergonomic design crimes, when we lose the essence of the initial aesthetic because they have lost their context by which they were invented. The cookie dough of engineering is necessity. Engineering is always defined by cost, and when the budget allows, as most likely it will, for lasting good design and longevity in its use, then we create timeless engineering. History is an incredible feat of ingenuity we could not predict our current changes.
The first key is history, and our reliance on the past to know what works, and to look for clues as to how we can further exponentially the future of engineering. The second key is concept. A concept allows us to create from a spark of an idea. Time stops and we collate our ideas into priorities between what is speculative technology and necessity based on cost. A concept for a new way of living goes through the process of prototype and lies in the engineering of somewhere between manufacture and aesthetic. The combination is achieved in fact by the engineer, and so every designer is both an artist and an engineer. Calculating stresses and resistances to wear and the elements means today, at an expense one can buy a product for the most extreme conditions making the idea of climbing Mount Everest a plausible task by the majority of the population with current technology. What engineering frowns upon is the lack of determination by the majority to actually strive for improving the world. Many no longer have the creativity to create a concept.
Concepts usually start in the mind and are then taken to the drawing board, but that is not to say in the process of design we may come across a solution to something we had not seen before. The beauty of the concept is that it is wholly from the power of the human mind. We now understand the paradigm of history, and the concept of the initial idea, but what if we had a concept for something never tried. How do we go about creating product development, and is there any scope for such a product? There is a clue as to how our reaction to the paradigm of history can make us think twice about how we go about changing the face of the planet and the way in which we live. There may be scope for such a product some toys are examples. Games allow us free creative reign to make a new invention. There are also world problems that allow for new innovation in product design like Trevor Bayliss’ wind up radio to get information on Aids treatment to the most remote parts of Africa where resources are scarce. These inventions become timeless products of an age, and globally desirable.
Concept means we have an ideal solution to an idea. But evidently cost dilutes are concepts to the extent, we find it hard to get the idea from pen on paper to a reasonable saleable item. Privatisation and the bespoke create a smaller market with more investment, but it comes at the cost of speculation and over exorbitant design which we lose to necessity. If public finding took value and pride in its designs, then engineering would stand up better to future proofing. In architecture however engineering has reached new heights to oversee definitive new designs in the world of building with cantilevers, expressed detail and structure, also technology to build in steel and glass to levels we may have thought we would never achieve. If Britain had been built on design we would have been better engineers, but it has always been a diverse melting pot of different cultures since the demise of the ingenious Roman Empire. Instead Britain was built on engineering and so definitely in the past design has suffered in comparison to some of the more artistic European countries, like Italy.
Beyond concept comes the third key, which is identity. How do we identify ourselves as a country in terms of engineering? Is it a bridge, a road, a boat or a car that tells us who we are and what we are about? Sitting in an English train, how do we identify with it? From the drop down table and cup holder to the auburn shade of fabric on the seats; to the sense of going somewhere and what we will do when we get there. Therefore the train identifies with us because we know we are going somewhere on a journey. The journey of design identifies many classic examples of engineering which we find today housed in museums. Only one day will we own the modern alternative or maybe the reproduction of a timeless object of design? But what is it we love or loved about those feats of engineering, those objects? Did we feel the same about them when they were first made? Probably not, the technology took force and the outlook was a given we accepted as a representation of that example. Therefore it is in the aesthetic of aspiration that we miss the monist idea.
Through comparison engineering and methods change, but not all for the better. The best way may have already been achieved for its time, so there is nostalgia for old form. The past identity was one of simplicity. Fashions are now looking back, but it is more than that. Old forms have a different physical presence something more tangibly visceral. Energy is so important in a room, through nostalgia we not only connect to the past, but what tried and tested methods mean into the future. The key of identity is ultimately different for everyone, and by cost the necessity of ownership holds the strongest connection to identity. The new VW Beetle proves a classic can be re-interpreted for today’s and the future market. Should we go on redesigning every classic object in a new vane? Or do we miss something of its classic character. It is inevitable we live with both history and present future objects. History, concept and identity are born out of time and the constant return to primitive ideas creates a new paradigm for which we come full loop into the future.
Identity means we can avoid fashions and that is to some extent why we are nostalgic. It is nothing to do with a reminder of the past when re-interpreted in today’s context. But a lack of earthly bound visions from our filmic present. Space is often a subject of the future of film, but at the end of the day space is just space. Nature on the other hand palms with domesticity. We do of course come from fish. A great feat of engineering is not only our survival as the strongest race from animal, but our evolution into a governed civilization. It may have taken war after war, and therefore civil unrest to reach to today, still at war. But our fluted evolution of man’s societal make up and our beginning to return to nature will ensure less future harm to the planet and an engineering of healing. The evolution of our engineered designs allow us to move, sleep, keep time, collate, record and create evolving us into a unique breed of living artists. For religion wants heaven and society wants evolved devolution. Between the two is somewhere where we lie presently, toeing the path to a commonality.
The fourth key is legibility. The keys are as follows: history, concept, identity and legibility. Have you ever thought about the legibility of a design drawing? There is an engineered element to creating clarity of the process and therefore good communication. With this comes legibility of the finished product. A proof it works. In fact without legibility we can never identify with our modern concept. Thomas Heatherwick is clearly legible for furthering age-old problems into modern innovative solutions. A lot of his ideas come from the original concept and the art of speculative design to further thought on the subject through practical means; the inventory manner by which we would all love to live given the choice. What is important to this process is to test our ideas to make them legible, and defined through the science of engineering; through scientific experiments. Today we are experimenting to find new methods and to seek out both bespoke and sustainable methods of production, allowing us to create a higher level of durability, and therefore quality on a mass scale.
Legibility starts with the artist’s pen, but should we put a signature to our work or do we in turn lose legibility of the rational? ‘Death of the author’ by Roland Barthes written so long ago now responds to this question succinctly. To simultaneously create a timeless existence, and to kill the immaturity of our cartoon attempts we should kill authorship and be benevolently unreachable. Legibility will then stand on its own, reverentially. Legibility is the historical concept of identity, joining the dots to understand the full picture, we find ourselves surrounded by authorless standards. History serves us well, but every new designer cannot wait to break the mould and re-interpret the future. If we take our time to get the engineering right, then we can and must celebrate good design both publicly and politically as a furthering to our societal aims. The world must be conceptually legible in order to find a new identity for each new generation until we can evolve with what is turning into a global destiny; peaceful and sublime.