Wonder Lab / Why Do I Design?

In asking myself why I design, I started with my most basic desire and the one that originally made me want to become a designer — my desire to build. I asked myself why and asked the same to every subsequent answer and was able to come up with the thought map below.

This map helped me be able to form a layered diagram of why I design. At the center is what I initially thought my goal was with design and the last ring represents the deeper meaning of that.

A point made during our class discussion regarded my outer most ring. What exactly does a “happier, more positive society” entail? Happiness is subjective and is influenced my many different life factors. The specific part of life I want to target, however, is better described by the two preceding rings — improving independence, self-satisfaction and self confidence.

As a designer, I have to think about how my skill-set can allow me to do this. What am I actually capable of making and what can I do to provide people a greater sense of independence?

I identified two distinct ways that design can provide people with a sense of independence, from a product perspective. I could create small changes that eliminate the feeling of incompetence or I could make changes in areas where people inherently rely on another person for action. For example, one way to instill confidence could be by optimizing a washing machine so someone easily knows how to operate it (small change that impacts independence) or it could be done by designing a way to make it so someone doesn’t need help bathing.

There are circumstances, however, (in the case of assistive technology) where assistive roles are currently held by people instead of technology. This can be a very good thing. Although it tends to be due to some kind of incapability, human assistance can be beneficial and does not necessarily need to be replaced. But perhaps there is a way to replace the essential, yet not ideal jobs people have (ex. changing someones bedpan), which can be both a burden to the person assisting as well as to the person with the incapability, and let people deal with the social aspects of their job. Additionally, the interactions people should have with products and technology should be in a comfortable, almost human way. It is the designer’s role to humanize technology.

Another way to target self confidence and independence is to change people’s perception of what they can and can’t do. Changing someone’s awareness of his or her capabilities could potentially be more beneficial than introducing capability because it will be accompanied by a sense of self-discovery. How to do this as a designer is something I still have to think about.

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