Eddie Opara visits College of Design!

Eddie Opara, a well-established designer whose work spans all 5 of the different practices we have learned, detailed “what the hell he does on a daily basis” and the hierarchy that fuels the intention behind his work in his lecture about many of his projects. His hierarchy lies in 9 different categories: neutral, variable, adaptive, entropy, speculative, spectacle, failure, and agenda. His examples for each category span a large variety both in content and choice of medium.

With neutrality, Eddie explains the process of creating a memorable identity with the rebranding of a logo. His work with Cooper Hewitt best explains this principle. When rebranding the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum into simply ‘Cooper Hewitt’, his team did not want to play with the aspects of being decorative but took a much more neutral approach. The bold-font was then consistently used as an icon of the museum and was utilized throughout its entire design. Other projects he also applied to neutrality also included the simplicity of designing for Pyer Noss and developing a wayfinding structure for Nike.


Source – https://www.cooperhewitt.org

With variability, he specifically talks about redesigning the iconic Lululemon bags. These red bags use a variety of fonts using slogans like ‘friends are more important than money’ that convey messages that resonate with the brand itself. It wasn’t about changing the company’s logo, it was about changing how they presented their identity. His presented project broke down and utilized typefaces in a more controlled manner, while also being able to aptly apply to a variety of wears (walls, yoga mats, leggings, etc.). He briefly continued to fuse the disciplines of design, technology in fashion when explaining how he designs for the category of entropy (specifically at Fashion Institute of Technology) and how he used motion and energy to fully display the institute’s ideals.

Using a spectacle, Eddie explains the necessity of a design as the midpoint of everything, as well as “something incredibly big. A project of his in Bangkok named ‘The Cube’ consisted of large wall that displayed data and information in both a non-sequential and informative way. With its size and ostentatious display, he revealed that the one thing he wanted to keep in mind when designing it was to make sure that the people that viewed it resonated with the project. In the category of the speculative, he applies the spectacle in a way that is risky and unusual. Projects that fell under this risky behavior include a robotic cocktail system that collects speculative data, a digital twin where anything that happens to its physical representation happens to the virtual one, and a high-end accounting thesis that was presented to be seen by the public by “turning it into a pornstar.”

His principles about failing had to do with more than just if the project was just well-liked or not, but rather if each component of the project was well-thought out and successful in its ultimate goal. The project displayed, a Siri-like technology that educated and informed elementary schools based on the techonolgy’s displayed mood. It was deemed a failure because of a component that didn’t allow for the collection of data because of the school’s firewall system. Agenda dealt with work of his own doing rather than a client and resulted in a unique, o-shaped clock that used lights instead of hands.

Source – https://www.fastcompany.com/innovation-by-design/2018/company/pentagram

The way that Eddie Opara was able to categorize and critique his own work inspired my own design and categorization of my design process. I feel that I can utilize his breadth, success, and passion towards what he does in all aspects of my design life.