N3: Julian Goss.
In perhaps the most erudite presentation of our five-part series, Julian Goss, Program Chair of the Industrial Design Department at the Ontario College of Art and Design, descended from his hovering, ivory, Alsop tabletop to lead members on a romp through 150 years of industrial design history.
Neither academic nor dull, Goss, a 10- year expat from Glasgow, now a naturalized and staunch Canadian who looks like Moby’s bulkier brother and speaks like Sean Connery, disarmed audiences with a presentation sprinkled with banter, asides and self-effacing anecdotes, all delivered in his remaining Scottish brogue while flipping through a slideshow of his industrial-design “faves.”
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Half-in-jest warnings about this Glaswegian’s dark, dangerous and scary edge proved unfounded. Instead, Goss teetered on the comedic. At one point, after admitting his fondness for Apple products from behind his heavy framed glasses, he paused to realize, “I’m a bit of a design cliche right now”. Later, he asked the audience if they were bored. “No!” they cried. Goss went on to show a rare breadth of knowledge, connecting many design dots, from Bauhaus to Walmart.
“I find that product design is a very difficult field to encapsulate, it’s huge, everything from tooth picks, to tables and chairs. Condos are an excellent example of bridging product and architecture,” the designer turned educator said by way of opening to the full house at Central’s presentation centre.
Although the number of students at OCAD’s Industrial Design program far exceeds the number of opportunities in today’s job market, many graduates will go on to apply their industrial design training in other fields. “If you can walk away with an understanding that everything is worth thinking about and everything is worth criticizing — that’s it,” says Goss, “Essentially you’re a designer at that point.”
Somewhere between art and design, improvement and invention as well as product and experience, industrial design is applied anthropology that deals with lots of people, entire cultures in fact, through product generalization at one end, and singular products that nail the zeitgeist at the other (Think: the iPod).
In 1990, Goss started a three-year apprenticeship with industrial designer Ron Arad in London, which began when he volunteered himself for a two week stint of unpaid work. “I proved to him that I could weld and take barked commands,” he recalled. “That’s where I started learning about the joy of making a product instead of art: something that people engaged with, sat in, ate with, brushed their teeth with or slept on.”
Over the course of the evening Goss dipped into industrial design’s relatively short history, which began with the Industrial Revolution. He zoomed in on the profession’s birth, the unbridled futurism of the 50s, the dubious 80s, Ikea, and the digitization revolution of the Internet age.
So what’s the “x” factor for industrial or product designers, terms Goss uses interchangeably? “Ultimately you’re trying to create an amazing experience, you’re trying to make something beautiful, meaningful, effective, functional, planet-saving, girlfriend-getting and all of that stuff.” Pretty straightforward.
Urban Capital Annual, 2011, Trends in Design
Jules Goss is a designer, consultant, professor and program chair of the Industrial Design department at OCAD University. Jules has spent 20 years as a product designer and consultant, originally working for Ron Arad in the One Off Studios in London, UK and going on to design furniture, housewares and interior design. Today he is also a partner in HarrisonGoss, developing and integrating design solutions in the manufacturing and service sectors.