Two weeks ago Catherine Henderson, who organises the Cape Town’s Creative mornings, asked Formula D interactive’s Michael Wolf 25 questions about design, art and tech via Twitter. Questions and answers were limited to 140 character each. Here are all Q & A’s in one thread.
Q: Michael Wolf, what do you do?
A: I am founder, CEO and Creative Director at Formula D interactive. I have a vast collection of hats.
Q: What is Formula D interactive?
A: Formula D’s a design consultancy specialising on interactive learning strategies, learning technology & spatial experiences.
Q: Could you give us an example your past achievements?
A: We designed the 1st multitouch wall & app in South Africa in 2008 for Two Oceans Aquarium, just before the iPhone hit the SA market.
Q: What is are your current projects?
A: We currently design an Energy Game for Eskom SA, a Virtual Chemistry Lab for schools & interactive learning apps for SA Gov.
Q: What do you feel abandons normal methods and presents new perspectives?
A: Design needs methods & tools but mustn’t become methodological. We constantly explore new tools & methods. This keeps it fresh.
Q: Michael,where were you educated?
A: I studied design at KISD & ENSCI, both are famous for their integrated design approach.
Q: What do you mean with ‘integrated design approach?
A: Design is not segregated into fields like product or graphics. It’s understood as a holistic approach to problem solving.
Q: What is your opinion of John Maeda’s (RISD) stem to steam initiative?
A: It’s great! But innovation also needs social studies to understand needs of people & entrepreneurs to make it happen.
Q: Is our current education system failing our future?
A: Yes, it is. Apart from a few exceptions learning is still ticking of boxes in silos. We need to rethink education from scratch.
Q: How are you making a difference?
A: Our design projects support extramural learning in Science Centers & at home as alternatives to stagnant learning institutions.
Q: What do you think is the link between arts and science?
A: Arts and sciences both seek new land with different approaches. Art envisions & evokes, science discovers & explains.
Q: What have you learned in art class?
A: Sadly, my art classes at high school &college were all about learning a technique and not about inventing a technology
Q: So, can art inform technology?
A: Artists are constantly at the pulse of emerging technology. They may not invent it but evoke new ways of looking at things.
Q: How important is art for your work as a designer?
A: I learn from media arts e.g. interaction experiments. Designers often lack the ‘luxury’ to play outside of the brief.
Q: Name your favourite example where art spurred technology and innovation.
A: I love the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Project: Science, Arts, Learning. We’ll have a reef in Cape Town:
Q: Tell us 5 qualities of good design?
A: Good design should be functional, sustainable, beautiful, accessible, and invisible.
Q: Why is good design invisible?
A: Design shouldn’t cry for attention, unless it’s a fire engine. We’re surrounded by good design we don’t notice & that’s good.
Q: Name one example where you see design getting it right?
A: EzyStove is a flat-pack, wood burning, slow combustion stove for USD 10.
Q: What is a noticeable obstacle for our local designers?
A: I think the Cape region lacks a product design ecosystem with investors, entrepreneurs, manufacturers who see value in design.
Q: What can be done to change that?
A: We’re working on a strategy with government, academia & industry to make design count for economic dev in the Western Cape.
Q: What is the most important thing in a design project?
A: YOUsers! Designers too often design for designers. Frequent sharing & testing sessions with focus group is crucial.
Q: Name one risk you would recommend any designer to take?
A: Risk to abandon a tool you’re familiar with in a project, e.g. software or process. You will be in for a positive surprise.
Q: What is a time waster for designers?
A: Getting caught up in details before having an approved base concept is a frequent time waster in design studios.
Q: Where do designers get inspiration from?
A: Design doesn’t come as ‘inspiration’. It’s an intellectual process. Observation & questioning will ‘conspire’ answers.
Q: What is the recipe for ‘magic ‘design?
A: A client taking some risk; multi-disciplinary team members who’re not afraid to leave their turf; 2 measures of passion
Q: Last question for today … From your vast collection of hats, which one is your favorite?
A: The designer hat is the most comfortable. It’s wide enough so I can wear it on top of all other hats!
25 questions and answers on Art, Technology and Design
Multitouch table helps young people to understand how personal choices affect their lives