Design Methodology — Week 3

Design in the everyday context

The Zimbabwe Bush Pump

The very first presentation of the weekly presentations in front of the class was by Tobias.

The Zimbabwe Water Pump is a product entirely designed and built in Zimbabwe, in south-east Africa. The most interesting thing about it is that its owned by the people who actually use it and not a company or a single person. It should help to solve the lack of clean water problem in the country, ussing such water pumps itself isn't new but the whole concept of independence and owned by everyone is new.

Before installing the water pump, the village people need to drill a hole, deep enought to reach the ground water. This event itself should strengthen the community of a village, as it requires several people working together to do so.

The aim is, that this system of a water pump which is build, owned and maintained by the enduser, becomes the national standard for a better health situation and stronger communities.

I think its comparable with an open source project in the tech field or a accessible blueprint for a 3D printable product. Also is the idea of sharing the experience with others important in the zimbabwe bush pump project, so it can constantly be improved.

A topic related to the principle of the zimbabew bush pump is Top-Down and Buttom-Up processes.

  • Top-Down, e.g. A government makes a decision; This is the new standard, everyone has to adapt.
  • Buttom-Up, e.g. The government listens/asks the people before they make a decision about something. So there is feedback involved.
Very Basic Visualisation of Top-Down / Buttom-Up.

Defamiliarization (by Michael)

Play-Pills (

Defamiliarization or misuse in design of everyday objects. To show us more about this topic, Michael introduced us to the artist Jason Tayler, who modifies/creates 366 different everyday objects within a year, means one object each day. Often combining two different simple object to a new one or modifying an existing one. Some of the created object might have a new use and some are just interesting to look at an will eventually open a new view about common everyday objects.

What does it mean to design one new object each day? Its an interesting approach for designing things. It means to start from scratch everyday without sticking to one idea or go as far as developing one idea until its perfect.

Other approaches to think about, which are related to this idea: “Technology is not always the key”, “Making by making strange” and “Repurposing” in general.

A famous but not obvious symbol for repurposing is the Eiffel Tower which was built for the world exhibition in the late 18th century. Later it was used (repurposed) as a radio antenna for the first public radio program in Europe, very useful by its exceptionally hight by that time. And today its kind of repurposed as the main tourist attraction in Paris.

Reading notes

Design of Everyday Things: (Knowledge in the head and in the world)

  • Information in the world. Much of the information a person needs to do a task can reside in the world. Behavor is determined by combining the information in memory (in the head) with that in the world.
  • Because of natural and artificial constraints, the number of alternatives for any particular situation is reduced, as are the amount and specificity of knowledge required within human memory.
  • In everyday situations, behaviour is determined by the combination of internal knowledge and external information and constraints.
  • Example Keyboard: As long as the typist needs to watch the keyboard, the speed is limited. The knowledge is still mostly in the world, not in the head. The important thing is to learn the proper placement of fingers on the keboard, to learn to type without looking, to get the knowledge about the keyboard from the world into the head.
  • Knowledge of: Declarative knowledge, like facts and rules.
  • Knowledge how: Procedural knowledge, the knowledge to perform something (music instrument, driving a car, etc.). Learned through practice, largely subconscious.
  • Rote learning: Memorizing a sequence of actions, mostly without understanding them. If something goes wrong, you would not know what to do. Rote learning is only in certain times necessary or efficient, like learning an emergency procedure.
  • Memory for meaningful relationships: When things make sense, they correspond knowledge that we already habe, so the new material can be understood, interpreted, and integrated with previously acquired material.
  • Memory through explanation: Use of mental models, those let people derive appropriate behaviour for situations that are not remembered (or never before encountered). People probably make up mental models for most of the things they do.
  • Knowledge in the world: Acts as its own reminder. Can help recover structures that we otherwise would forget. Easier to learn but often more difficult to use.
  • Knowledge in the head: Is efficient, no search and interpretation of the environment is required. In otder to use knowledge in the head, we have to get it there, which might require considerable amounts of learning.
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