Everyday Art

2004 Volkswagen Satellite Blue Beetle limited edition CBS/AP

(This story originally aired May 21, 2006.)

From inexpensive coffee cups and clocks to very expensive sports cars, just about everything we use is the creation of designers.

We may not spend much time thinking about them, but they spend plenty of time thinking about us.

"Design has the power and the influence to actually make very large social and behavioral shifts in the world. And design, I think, is a very nice tool, an instrument really to shape human behavior," designer Karim Rashid tells CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.

Rashid is not one to be modest. His mission is nothing less than to make everyone's life better through design.

2"Design is here and design is not a fad and it's not a trend and it's not a style. It is about shaping the world. It's about changing the world. It's about shaping culture," Rashid says.

Products Rashid has designed -- shoes, lamps, chairs -- are now on exhibit at Price Tower, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Prairie Skyscraper in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Richard Townsend, director of the Price Tower Arts Center, says Rashid has much in common with Wright.

"He, like Frank Lloyd Wright, is interested in how people exist, interact, live within their environments," Townsend says of Rashid.

The Garbo trash can Rashid designed in 1995 was his first big contribution to making our lives better. If Rashid were a rock star, the Garbo would have gone platinum. Rashid says somewhere between four and six million trash cans were sold.

"It's a pretty enormous thing," Rashid says.

Now the Garbo is included in the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art, where Paola Antonelli is curator of the Architecture and Design Department.

"It is good design. It, it is inexpensive, it is for everybody, it's durable, it's made with processes that, at that time, were among the most updated," Antonelli says.

Antonelli has a collection and a book she calls "Humble Masterpieces."

Among them include the Mag-lite, the first disposable camera and a screw pull for wine bottles.

"Now you see, in, in this case, there's a few humble masterpieces all together. One is a great American masterpiece which is the Mag-lite.

Even if designers themselves don't change the world, they figure out how to harness a changing world for the rest of us to use.

"Designers try the little bits to change the world. But in truth what I think that they're really good at is taking major developments, major revolutions, technological, historical, social or otherwise and what they do is they make them understandable, usable, manageable by normal people," Antonelli remarks.

Behind plenty of unlikely products, there's the story of hard-working designers, the Swiffer Carpet Flick didn't just happen.

"We thought, 'OK, so it needs to be very simple.' We don't have any electric motors. No moving parts would be really nice," says designer Tim Brown.

Brown leads IDEO, the California design company Proctor and Gamble asked to develop an inexpensive carpet sweeper.

"Great design is a combination of two things. It's a combination of usefulness or utility and emotion. What it draws people to things of which beauty is part of it," Brown says, adding "It's just lust if you will. I want that fast BMW or whatever it might be."

That fast BMW may well have been designed at BMW Designworks USA in Southern California where president Verena Kloos says the designers stay creative by putting their minds to a wide variety of projects.

"We call it cross-fertilization. That you learn when you work for one industry, that you learn for the other industry. It's amazing, what kind of insight you gain from, what kind of thoughts are being developed," Kloos says.

Brown says the first step of the design process is to observe consumers. "Design thinking is about getting your, your insights from what's happening in the world," Brown says.

Karim Rashid adds that a highly competitive global market drives the interest behind strong designs.

"The minute competition gets fierce -- the only way you're gonna survive is by differentiation. So design became the powerful differentiator," Rashid says.

America's embrace of design and designers is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the aisles of a Target Store, the discount chain has proven design can translate into dollars.

Minda Gralnek, one of Target's creative directors, says Americans have a new appreciation for good design.

"In the 90s when the VW Beatle came out and the I-Mac and it came out in all these colors and people were like, 'Wow, why would a computer need to be a color? A fashion color?' We're all soaking that in. And it's coming out in lots of things. I think it's coming out in what people seek to buy," Gralnek says.

So Target now stocks big name clothing designers like Isaac Mizrahi and Liz Lange, the interior designer Thomas O'Brien and a seemingly endless collection of creations from Michael Graves.

"I think people started noticing that design makes a difference. It makes a difference in what your kitchen looks like. People are realizing that they can make their kitchen look better and it will give them joy," Gralnek believes.

3Beyond joy, design is also bringing a kind of democracy. So an item like the iPod, carried around by millions, can also have a place of honor in the Museum of Modern Art. Design has made art a part of everyday life.

"It has raised the threshold of acceptance by the consumers. It has raised the bar," Paola Antonelli says. "And I don't think that the bar is ever going to be able to go down."
  • Sean Alfano

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