Tag: Design Piracy

Don’t Be Silly! Language and Design Piracy

Dont-Be-Silly

Before its recent aspirations to become a design city, Singapore’s intellectual property system was relatively undeveloped like many developing nations, allowing piracy to thrive. Don’t be Silly! is a 4-page insert examining a 1982 legal case between two manufacturers of polypropylene chairs — the British Hille International and the local Tiong Hin Engineering — and the role of language in piracy.

This was specially created for the Singapore Art Book Fair 2016, and it builds upon the Design Piracy Institute project I launched at D-Crit as part of my MFA thesis. Risograph printers Push—Press were commissioned to print a special edition of my thesis with this insert. Limited copies are still available for sale and shipping is free worldwide.

Piracy & Design: Rethinking Intellectual Property in the Third Industrial Revolution

Knockoffs, fakes, and counterfeits are the bane of modern industrial design. They are unauthorized copies of designers’ intellectual property. They are the stolen profits of manufacturers. They are the products of piracy: a phenomenon wrecking an industry’s will to innovate and create “original” and “authentic” design. But to consumers, piracy offers affordable goods, diversity of options, and sometimes, even better design. Piracy isn’t black-and-white like a pirate flag, but a nebulous concept whose edges ebb and flow like the waves of the sea. What’s a copy to some is homage to another, what is original today is tomorrow’s evolution, what is piracy to the industry is competition to society.

How will we recognize piracy and intellectual property in industrial design with the rise of digital fabrication technologies like 3D printing? By democratizing access to the means of production, it will become easier for users to copy, remix, and self-repair objects in ways that traditionally infringe upon a designer’s intellectual property. This calls for a need to redefine what piracy means. In response to the digital revolution, some designers and manufacturers have strengthened protection over their designs via the law and technology, while others are opening up access to them, believing that design is a collaborative process that benefits from a community working on it together. Will the rise of open design see an end to piracy?

This thesis examines more closely the relationships between piracy, intellectual property, and industrial design by studying a variety of case studies and interviews with practitioners. Beyond just a legal and economic issue, piracy is a reflection of society’s assumptions about the design process, who a designer is, and what design is for. Piracy is a ghost that will always haunt the world of design.

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Visual Arts in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts in Design Criticism. 

To find out more, visit the Design Piracy Institute.

Preserving ‘Originality’: A new 2nd-hand design economy?

In 2007, furniture maker started a 2nd Cycle line, which essentially resells second-hand mid-century modernist furniture.

According to its website:

“By creating the 2nd Cycle Artek wants to raise the issue of conscious consuming, praise the authentic design and honour the importance of originality. Solidly made and impervious to fashion, these iconic pieces of furniture have gained value and beauty through their everyday use.”

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It’s interesting to see a furniture manufacturer enter the second-hand market, but it makes perfect sense when you think of it as part of a larger strategy to preserve the authenticity of its brand or “aura”. Given how digital technologies will make it easier for people to copy 3D designs, one way companies have tried to protect their designs is to educate consumers. A store like 2nd-hand Artek legitimises what is “original”, highlights the quality in “authentic” design, and fortifies the premium value the brand can command. Herman Miller has also been running, Discovering Design, a kind of design education programme that places its furniture line in context of a larger history.