Best of Fish & Bicycles: Design: Capitalism’s Redeeming Value

Originally Published: December 30, 2009

coke adds life
I admit it. I’m not a big fan of capitalism. I don’t see its rising tide lifting all boats, and I don’t see prosperity trickling down.

That said, I love art, and I would be intellectually dishonest if I didn’t acknowledge that commerce has been a venue for a lot of artists working in the fields of graphic and industrial design.

Artists have to make a living, and many hone their skills and create legitimate art designing everything from new products, to packaging, to advertisements in the public, private, profit, and non-profit sectors. Sometimes works that came to life for commercial purposes are right at home in an art gallery, and certainly art galleries and museums are filled with pieces that incorporate aesthetic elements inspired by or reminiscent of commercial designs.

My own awareness around this didn’t really sink in until I learned about the Industrial Design program at the university where I work.

About 9 years ago, a colleague and fellow bicycle commuter and I were lamenting how most of the bicycle racks on campus offered little to no shelter from the rain, a painful irony, given that Bellingham is, well, kind of known for being a rainy place.

Long story short: My friend suggested that we talk to the Industrial Design (ID) department to see if they would be willing to have their students do a class project, developing some design concepts for sheltered bike racks. The idea went over so well that the Junior class did indeed do a project, and I was able to organize a team of folks from the departments needed to fund and take the designs from the drawing board to working prototype and eventually to the fabrication and installation of dozens of bike shelters all across campus.

As a result, I had the opportunity to tour the ID studios, to see some of the tools and processes used to develop designs, and most importantly I had the pleasure of meeting some incredibly creative and talented students, artists in every single sense of the word.

Ever since, whether I’m looking at a Coca-Cola poster like the one posted here, admiring the sleek, minimalist design of Apple products, or simply noticing an everyday logo, I’m less inclined to take their appearance for granted and more inclined to appreciate the creativity involved.

Recommended sites:

MoCo Loco
Yanko Design

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