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"Ambitious" Digital Age

陈溪CeciliaChan 2016-07-20 17:27

Through real computer-human interaction, designer Zhang Zhoujie’s new exhibition - The Randomness of Design - presented a digital design conceptual process: for the first time, the audience are able to create their own designs by sending orders to a computer and a laser-cutting machine. Held in Yihaus Shopping Village next to the Disney Park in Shanghai, the exhibition takes an hour for the audience to make an actual 'random' design.

“Design is not merely a superfluous skill,”Zhangsays,“its ultimate goal is not just to shock through its beauty. It is to reshape the world step by step, even including the commercial world.” After graduating from England’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design, he returned to China in 2010 and founded his own digital design laboratory where he 'ambitiously' researched how to make digital design solutions through computers. In his world, computers appeal to people through their natural mystery as technology continues to make breakthroughs, clearly, he is trying to give people a glimpse of the future.


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Since Zhang’s design launched at London 100% Design Fair, he has garnered attention due to his creative digital modelling designs, especially his breakout work Digital Chair. Not only did the global media take an interest in these magical sci-fi-like props, design connoisseurs around the world were also eager to add them to their collections.

Hailed as a 'visionary' and one of the representatives of the younger generation of designers in China, Zhang has now held over 30 exhibitions all over the world. However, his goal isn’t to be famous, rather it is to constantly explore and experiment with his designs. Zhang believes that at present, many architects, programmers, and game designers each have their own digital research, but from a wider perspective, front and back end programming are still not well combined, and that's what designer should worry about. He says: “the process is way more important than the result, so does the story than the style, and of course, possibilities are more important than practicality.”


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In the future, computers themselves might take over the role of ‘industrial designers’, and consumers might no longer be faced with products they don’t actually want - as computers will be able to make things for people before they know they want them. From the results of a great deal of computer calculations, there is a great chance that every kind of product will have this treatment, matching users’ interests with the perfect answer every time.

During the three month of Zhang’s The Randomness of Designexhibition, people might be able to witness this themselves and experience the new digital era he is talking about.


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VANTAGE: In your opinion,how far away are we from the reality of having full choice and options to have what we want before the goods are even made?

Zhang:It should't be far away, some of the most difficult programming has been solved,but it will take more time to perfect the system.Once the system is more established,we can continue to diversity the production materials,colours,textures etc. to be able to make varied products.


VANTAGE:What is the meaning of "randomness" in your exhibition?

Zhang:It doesn't just mean randomness; it also means 'beyond control' and 'surprise'.The important point is that you are looking for some- thing unique that is not created out of thin air, but through a series of vicissitudes, and then in the process of these random changes to nd your own favorite parts. This interaction is a future trend in the digital era, people will be able use computers to design unexpected things and through this get whatever they want.


VANTAGE: Seeing the Chinese name of the exhibition - “sui ji” - my rst thought was “fol- lowing computers” (ji in Chinese also meaning ‘machine’), does it have this implication? Zhang: I really did not think of it on this level and I think it is also a valid explanation. You have to respect computer programming’s log- ic; so “following computers” is not completely wrong in that sense.


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VANTAGE: Will computers be able to replace the role of human designers in the future? Zhang: At the phase we are in now, there still needs to be a human in command, but after ten or twenty years’ time it is likely that computers will be able to take charge on their own. There will only need to be a human to make certain choices.


VANTAGE: Can digital design break through the limitations of craftsmanship?
Zhang: I personally think this is divided into three stages; the rst is the production of handicrafts, the last hundred years have consisted of a transition from handicrafts to industrial production. Then there is the transition from industrial to digital production. Finally there is the transition to a full computer-controlled production. Right now the stage we are in is very awkward; the digital tools aren’t perfect enough to replace the industrial tools, so I must manually nish some of my digital designs. In the future when we further develop digital production tools, digital design will go from a supporting role to becoming the main player.


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VANTAGE: Do you think handicrafts will die out? 

Zhang: De nitely not, handicrafts as a category will exist for a long time, while its social signi - cance will continue to undergo changes.


VANTAGE: What major projects have you been working on in the last few years? Can you share with us your greatest results or feelings? 

Zhang: In the last three years I had to build a team and do a lot of business projects - a large amount of which were digital sculptures, but also do a few crossover projects. These collaborations were first screened, to achieve my ideas my digital design practices in the projects were all taken into account. For example I was recently invited by Nike to undertake a project to create a digital image for sports goals. From the 2nd June to the 22nd, this “goal” installation will be put on display in the NikeLab X158. As for breakthroughs and results, there are several. For example the management of production, deepening of concepts, including resolving actual problems that were faced, meaning this project is undergoing constant improvements, much like levelling up while playing games.


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