…never goes out of style. More on that later. I paid a visit to the Peoples Republic of China a few weeks ago… my first time there and I really enjoyed myself. It was not at all what I expected. I was in Shanghai for an Inventor Users Meeting that can only be classified as a total success. There were almost two hundred users who first saw Dr. Andrew Anagnost, Vice President of Autodesk delivered the keynote “The Move from 3D Design to Digital Prototyping”. After that participants were divided into 10 groups for the technical workshops. They were seated according to their interest in product features, sharing their tips and suggestions, discussing topics on Inventor.
Chen Boxiong, Chen Yawei and Ma Maolin who are all Inventor instructors, Liu Zhiguo who is the professor of industrial design at Tsinghua University and myself delivered keynote speeches on design association, release and use of standard-part libraries, assembly techniques and strategy, rendering & color matching, and large assembly techniques and dynamics simulation. After the workshops were complete, vendors who sponsored the event from HP, nVidia and others spoke to the group to bring them up to date with regards to advances in hardware, and then it was on to the design contest, where designers from ServaSJS, 3H (Shanghai) Petroleum Equipment Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Weihai Packaging Machinery Plant distinguished themselves from the other participants and demonstrated their expertise with Inventor.
Now, back to the theme of this entry… good design. I have long been a fan of the work of Poul Henningsen, a name I am quite sure is unknown to most if not all of you. Mr. Henningsen was born September 9th, 1894 in Denmark. He grew up in the era of gas lamps, and was quite simply not happy with the quality of light that the electric lights which replaced them cast. He spent years working on the problem, and his solution to that problem was based on the analysis of the effects and functions of the lampshade.
Henningsen committed himself to eliminate or, at least, diminish the problem of glare, and the result was the classic PH 4/3 Lamp.
He utilized logarithmic curvature in multiple shades which produced a lamp in which the bulb was not visible, and the light was directed downward so that each individual ray of light was reflected no more than once. He also varied the color of the shade elements and experimented with different types of glass materials to alter the tone and intensity of the light. His goal was “to imitate the warm glow of the petroleum lamps” he grew up with. Poul Henningsen’s success in accomplishing this goal is not debatable, and is evidenced by the fact that many of his designs are still in production today including the PH 4/3 shown above as well as the PH5 and some of his larger designs such as the snowball and the most famous, the “Artichoke”.
Now, some of you are most likely wondering how I got from a report of our User Community meeting in Shanghai to a discussion of Poul Henningsen’s work. Well, as I pointed out, I have been a longtime admirer not only of Mr. Henningsens work, but also of his philosophy and approach with regards to his designs. Unfortunately, I had never actually seen an example of his work, with the exception of the occasional sighting in a movie or book. So imagine my surprise upon entering my hotel in downtown Shanghai, the Vista Holiday Inn, to see not one, not two but three PH Artichoke’s hanging in the center of the lobby.
I was stunned, and quite literally spent the next few days pointing them out to anyone who showed the slightest interest and was willing to listen to me wax philosophic on the subject of good design, and the timelessness of these designs. The PH Lamp is perfectly exemplifies the mantra that good design never goes out of style. These lamps are contemporary today, and were considered to be ahead of their time when they were first produced. The last century is full of designers and designs like this, visionaries whose creations are quite literally timeless. I hope to bring some of them to your attention in the coming weeks/months. Until then, have a great week and I will talk to you soon.