“And the big wheel run by Fate (poetic licence, apologies William!), good Lordy; And the little wheel run by the Grace of God; In the wheel in the wheel in the wheel good Lord; Way in the middle of the air…….” William L. Dawson
…..continuing to wallow in my nostalgia well, writing about my art school time brought back other memories of that crazy period. This is about how I accidentally fell into my beloved profession of Industrial Design and through that I developed (ptp 🙂 ) my love for photography. The flow of things created in me the belief in Fate, everything happens for a reason and is meant to be.
It all started while I was still at school and my parents, together with another couple, decided that their sons needed to know where their talents/skills lay, what our ‘bent’ was ( not to mention our parents’ great hopes that their “my son the doctor/lawyer/accountant aspirations for us would be reinforced) and thus sent us off to the C.S.I.R. (The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) for ‘aptitude tests’. After a full day of testing, IQ, brain wringing and every other psycho-/co-ordination variation known to man at that time, Ivor and Seymour were 2 very tired 15 year-olds as we caught the bus home. About a week later my results arrived in the mail. The C.S.I.R. had decided that I should be: 1 – Industrial Designer or 2 – Architect or 3 – Mechanical Engineer.
The thing was that I had no idea what Ind. Des. entailed. It was a brand new field at that time and I had no easy way (the net/web/google) to research, so I imagined it to be designing factories and industrial buildings, which certainly didn’t interest me. Architecture had interesting possibilities that attracted me but, 7 years study (in S.Africa, Arch. included a Civil Eng. degree = 7 years) was not quite what I had in mind. Finally, Mech. Eng. simply did not interest me at all. So I ended up in the Electrical Engineering faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. My thinking was that Bionics, which at that time, circa 1964, also in it’s embryonic stages was new and exciting and my intention was to specialize in miniature electronics to enable me to build electronically controlled artificial limbs. Well needless to say that was a huge fail. After 3 months, the boring discipline of engineering was directly responsible for me spending the rest of that academic year becoming a pinball wizard at Pop’s Cafe, just across the road, opposite the main entrance to the university.
The next fateful step in my academic education was to apply for a place in the Graphic Design department of the Johannesburg School of Art & Design. To be honest, that was what I’d wanted to do from the beginning, but, for some unknown reason I never seriously thought to actually do it. Well I applied, presented a portfolio good enough to be ‘invited’ to sit the entrance exam, which I duly passed…. but was accepted to the Industrial Design dept. and not the Graphics dept. I was miserable, but was told that the first year was a basic Arts course, the same for all the departments and it was possible to move to another course after the first year.
From the very first day, I started to discover what Industrial Design really is. On the one hand, creating new aesthetic, functional products/environments whilst on the other hand learning/exploring the possibilities of materials/processes and helping in the development of new materials, forms and shapes was extremely exciting and any thoughts I had of changing courses immediately flew out my ears from my head. I was suddenly able to combine many creative disciplines in the same profession. Graphics, sculpture, colour, drawing, draughting. All designed products that are manufactured include most of these ingredients and often many more. Learning how to approach a project whilst taking into account the possibilities/capabilities of materials, manufacturing limitations, or planning the functionality and aesthetics of an interior together with the architect, contractor and all the other consultants involved is an amazing creative experience. Using/collecting all the different parameters and then synthesizing them into an attractive/useful product/environment is a joy. Learning that ‘form follows function’ and to KISS (keep it simple, sucker) are part of the basics was a revelation.
After 45+ years in the profession, I am still in love with it. To see what your inner-self dreamed up come to real life fruition can only be described as orgasmic.
So the C.S.I.R got it right after only a few hours of playing in my head, just took me a little longer to discover the light, but, in the interim I truly became a pinball wizard…….
……..to be continued