Ironic, or Kitsch?

Attempting to do some research for an essay (which I’ll write properly about once I hate it enough for a full page whine, right now it’s a mild annoyance), and something is becoming increasingly unclear to me. What’s the difference between ironic and kitsch design?

“Kitsch” gets thrown at us a lot in PDT, you get sick of hearing it pretty quickly, that and “ellipse”. It is generally considered a very very very bad thing, unless, as in the case of my speaker concept, you are designing for 4-year-olds.

Google Definitions:

Kitsch -Art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but appreciated in an ironic way.

images (1)
Irony – The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

Though if you ask anybody what either means they will mumble for a while before giving up and telling you “I know what it is but I can’t explain”

What I can gather is that something can be kitsch purely by being tasteless and sort of hard to look at, whereas to be deemed ironic something has to be cleverer than that. Like this Swiss Door Wedge by Andrew Stafford.

Get It? That’s not the type of wedge you’re supposed to use to hold a door open. How I laughed.

Kitsch design is Ironic, in that design is expected to be aesthetically pleasing, but Ironic design is not necessarily Kitsch. There’s still a very blurred line between the two in my eyes, and by the looks of things whether or not something is clever or tacky seems to be subjective. So next time you see something violently garish, play my new little game Ironic, or Kitsch? (It’s going to be big in playgrounds everywhere)

Relevant article I’m too lazy to discuss properly.

My Epiphany || Ramblings of The Tired and Stressed

In my attempt to blog recently, I’ve found myself pretty stuck for inspiration, so I’ve closed the laptop and walked away. This evening I decided I would sit down and not get up until I had posted. Turns out inspiration doesn’t take kindly to being forced, and with the whole internet in front of me, I didn’t stay on that blank “New Post” page for long. Inevitably, I found myself on reddit, my source for pretty much everything. It occurred to me that r/design is a thing, and instead of clicking through links and arbitrarily up-voting, I could be posting about this stuff, and so…

The top post in the design subreddit today is this. I don’t like the design itself, it’s too busy and completely loses it’s original meaning (in my opinion), it also doesn’t help that some of the renders, particularly on the car, look very dumped on. However it has inspired me and therefore served it’s purpose. Personal branding something I’ve always been interested in, and not very good at. I’d like have something that marks work as mine but I get bored with things and rework them too often to have any real trademark. My favourite colour is never the same two years running, it’s always blue but the shade changes dramatically (I was all about pastels when I was 8, then it got brighter until it was turquoise, now it’s sort of navy). Naming this blog was my first solid step, because unlike most things (unimportant things like my signature or my fundamental opinions on anything) I can’t change the URL without going to a certain amount of effort. I don’t like effort.

Practical Abstractions was a name born from accident, like all the best things are (where would you be without post-its, honestly?) and it has sort of inflicted an identity upon me, because my portfolio is here and transferring that would, again, be effort. For that I love it, I have to stick with it and now have a basis on which to build my personal brand.

I don’t really have a proper ending to this post but I have to stop because this is going nowhere and pretty soon I’m going to stop making sense to even myself.

And they all lived happily ever after. (If it works for Disney it works for me)

Sometimes I Wish I Had Free Time

So it happened again, I went a week without posting. It can this time be largely attributed to this monstrosity:

Speaker Concept 2
I swear it’s laughing at me

Remember when I posted at the end of the 50 concepts project, I mentioned that our next brief was injection moulded speaker housing? Remember how innocent and full of hope I was? It didn’t last long. Don’t get me wrong I am nowhere near the levels of depression and aimless rage I reached in such projects as: the cardboard chair(I tore that effing thing to pieces after grading), or the go-kart (THAT WE SHALL NEVER SPEAK OF!) But it’s not running as smoothly as it could be. For one thing I can’t draw it on paper, and for another, moulding it is going to be a complete pain. Final hand-in isn’t for another while but I’m behind schedule, and when you timetable your life like I do, diversion from schedule is not acceptable. I’ve got an Easter break coming up in which to get myself back on track and I shall go into it with as much optimism as possible.*Feeble “Yay”*

Trompe L’Oeil

The CDC Design Project (worth 15%) required us to have a go at trompe l’oeil. Using electrical tape and imagination, we, in groups of 4 set about vandalising the building in which the PD studio is housed with some guerilla art work.

My group, myself, Caoimhe, Lorraine and Safa decided to use the tape to continue a stairway and this was the result (picture angle slightly off because I’m shorter than the average)

Trompe L'Oeil

We went through ideas like having a ball rolling down or a bottle leaning before deciding on the legs. I think the trick to this project was that there wasn’t a projector involved, we had two sheets of acetate and the “Up a bit, down a bit” method of transferring the image to the wall. We also had major problems with the tape sticking to the large amounts of dust on the wall rather than the wall itself.

I enjoyed it, but I’m not really sure what we achieved, especially seeing as the college removed all our works within hours. Yay team work?

Baby’s First Rendering

This semester (4th) was the first time we were introduced to using Adobe CS for design (same for Solidworks but I’ve been playing with that for the last 5 years). It was something I was looking forward to because I prefer doing things on the computer approximately 100% of the time. It depressed me hugely that I was not instantly amazing at it. After a couple of weeks learning Illustrator and week of colouring basic shapes, we were given a speaker image to reproduce in orthographic, due yesterday.

Speaker Original

Here’s what I handed in:


I like things that have a definitive right and wrong answer, I would keep tinkering with something subjective like this forever if I were left to it. There’s no way to be perfectly right, so I can never think of it as finished, no matter how many times I do it and re-do it. This means I will likely never be happy with anything I render on Photoshop ever. That’s a cheery thought.

Wearing In/Wearing Out || An Ode to my Pencil Case

For last weeks class we watched the documentary Objectified. In an interview with Bill Moggridge, co-founder of IDEO and inventor of the first laptop (the GRiD Compass laptop), the idea of wearing a product in rather than wearing it out came up. I have mixed feelings on this. The example he used himself was of the GRiD Compass, that the spots where the magnesium shows through the paint make it feel “better”. I love my laptop, a Dell Inspiron Duo.


It has an incredible ability to still amaze people despite the fact the technology is at least 18 months old (I think it was around for about 6 before I got my hands on one November 2011). Even though it’s forced me to buy a second computer to run Adobe CS and SolidWorks, it’s very good at what it does and I wouldn’t swap it for any other. I would, however, swap it for a brand new one of the same. The “dings” Bill Moggridge felt improved the machine, bother me no end. The peeling on the casing, the scratches on the screen, the two missing rubber feet and the lumps missing from that time I dropped it. I hate them.

I’m not totally opposed to the idea of wearing in though, people of the internet allow me to introduce you to my pencil case.


I bought this case in September 2005, on my first day of secondary school, I’ve never been far from it since. I bought it because I needed a pencil case and this was the one in the shop that didn’t have a football printed on it, I didn’t ache for it for months, weeks or even days like I have done with many things I’ve bought, and I remember thinking at the time that it would do until I found a better one (better meaning blue). Now, nearly 8 years later, it’s stained with years of pens, pencils, and highlighters, stabbed with compasses and screwdrivers and with me at all times (and I mean it’s in my handbag on a night out). It’s seen me through every exam I’ve ever taken, got me into my college of choice and won me an art competition or two to boot. It houses the pens and pencils used in any of the drawings on this site. I am more attached to this battered piece of fluff than I am to most people. When it comes to it’s annual trip to the washing machine, I spend a couple of agonizing hours wondering whether I’ve finally outlived it, whether this will be the time it comes back to me in pieces. But it always survives, and long may it.

50 Concepts, 4 Weeks

Bless me WordPress for I have sinned, it’s been more than a week since my last blog, I’ve been busy. First studio project of the semester was due this week which was, as the title suggests, 50 Concepts in 4 Weeks. It wasn’t horrendous but it wasn’t my favourite project of all time.

Nature Watches

It doesn’t escape my attention that out of 50 ideas I’m only happy with the 11 above. That’s kind of sad, but I shan’t dwell on it. The brief was 3 mini-briefs with the focus on idea-generation: nature inspired watches,  methods of mixing and applying bone cement and ways of addressing the issue of bikes on buses. The last two were fairly slow going but after 2 lazy weeks and a couple of 14-hour panic days, it got done.

No rest for the wicked it seems though because the new brief was on us 15 minutes later, 10 new concepts (of injection moulded speaker housings) due Wednesday. That combined with the mountain of Photoshop rendering due the same day make my feelings of “Thank God it’s finally over” completely unjustified. I’m going to enjoy them anyway until it’s time to stress out again on Monday.