As many facets of our culture, design has seen a huge increase in exposure. Social media, blogs, magazines and a growing number of design festival all over the world has made the design world truly global but also highly saturated.
A feeling of ‘everything has been done already’ is felt by many designers and it seems true; whatever you think of, you will find that someone somewhere has done it before you.
So for a designer to design an single object that will truly surprise people, or solve an unsolved problem is very rare. Of course, when you work for a client to a well specified brief you do solve someone’s problem directly and the need for creating a ‘head turner’ is less relevant, as the satisfaction of the client is a higher priority than exposure.
But when you design from a self initiated brief, or you try to establish yourself within the field, how do you make your mark and how do you make your style or identity identifiable from the rest?
One of the ways that I have found to be a strong tool for this is to present your work as a family of objects. I have looked at various designers and how they present themselves and I realised it is much more powerful to present you work as a coherent family, rather than showing each object individually. There are a few reasons for this.
First of all, some objects you might design can seem a little redundant when shown by themselves. Placed in a context of other objects gives them a place and a ‘reason to exist’. This context adds value to each object in the setting and thus the outcome is more than the sum of its parts.
Secondly, showing a new piece alongside something older reminds people of what you’ve done before. It refreshes peoples memories and it makes them remember it’s you that designed it.
Thirdly, by showing people a complete presentation of your work you show them a philosophy, a view on the world, rather than just an object. This is more effective because it communicates via more channels. Instead of showing an object (one answer to one question) you communicate what the scope of your work is, what your design vision is and how each object that you make relates to the other object.
Fourthly, and this is maybe the most important reason, you develop an environment in which you can retreat to get to know yourself and your own vision. Looking at a family of objects you can start seeing the relationships between them and they tell you the directions that are interesting to you. By creating a family of objects you create a volume within which you can think, play, add, transform, dream. It’s pretty much the polar opposite of the blank page in your sketchbook staring at you.