The narrative of my story is based on the experience a young girl named Mary Beth has when visiting “The History of Design” Museum for a school field trip. The Museum is set up to be one room with six different pedestals, each containing a different product that tied to one of the readings. Though, in order to see these products the students had to wear special glasses. There were five pairs of glasses, each would reveal one of the products on the pedestals, except for one, which showed two. This was done because though the readings had overlaps, they ultimately were describing distinctly different methods and theories. After reading the articles and extracting their meanings and methods, I found a product that was an example of each research method and design theory. I also wanted to highlight how seeing new perspectives, brings about new products and ideas. So with each new pair of glasses, comes new products and research method.
In the story the main character goes through looking at each product with the glasses on, but is confused and doesn’t see the connection between products and their significance. Until she asks a fellow student, Claire, how she knows additional information about the products presented to them. Then Claire explains to Mary Beth, that after she put on the glasses she needed to “press a button on the side”, where an explanation for each product and its difference from the others would appear in front of the product itself. Claire then goes on to explain what Mary Beth missed in the museum.
The first of the Museum’s products was a Desk. This was supposed to be a Desk taken from Project H’s experience in Mexico City. Where Project H came into a rural community school and codesigned new furniture for the school. Claire then speaks about how Project H worked in collaboration with the school, to create a physical thing that would improve the lives and learning of the children who attended.
The second product was OXO’s Vegetable Peeler. Here it was highlighted that Designers were moving from a tactful role to a strategic role. The product shown was developed within a design consultancy, Smart Design, they used ethnographic research methods to lay the groundwork for the project. They wanted to find the anomalies within their research participants, such as those with arthritis. Lastly they continued the project well past prototyping. All throughout the implementation of the product into the customer market was guided by the design team. This shows that designers aren’t just looking at products for their aesthetics, but going beyond that to a more strategic and business space.
The third product was the Model T. Ford. This aligned to the idea’s Don Norman had expressed within his article “Technology First, Needs Second”. The Model T. was the first affordable car, it’s the perfect example of how technology lead to the need. First the combustible engine was invented (technology) then this brought about the car (product), next came the popularization and affordability for the masses (people), finally we see that people cannot imagine their lives without their car (need). This linear path of technology down to people, is a pattern seen by many around Revolutionary Innovations. Don would say the Model T. was a revolutionary Innovation, that truly was lead by technology.
The fourth products were a European Union Flag and a prototype for a design concept. The European Union in the 90’s started a task called “Presence Project” which revolved around elderly individuals and their interactions with technology. During this study, the researchers used cultural probes to gain insights into the participants lives. They used emotional mapping, sent postcard with prompts and sent a disposable camera to the participants. Each of these prompts were designed to evoke a playfully like experience for the participants, and later for the designers to be inspired by. This method embraces the limits of knowledge and allow the gaps left behind to be filled by the fun, play and uncertainty built into the activities.
Lastly there were two products shown, Mary Beth’s Facebook Page with just the likes highlighted, and a new product called “Wave”. These two products were representations of two different theories of design, positivist and phenomenological. First the Facebook page, this perfectly exemplifies the positivist theory. In that on Facebook you can “like” different topics and activities, and then the Facebook algorithm will only show you things that are those topics and those that release to it. This algorithm shows people as being single dimensional and one sided, because it literally takes what you said you liked and only shows you those things.
The second object shows is called “Wave”. It is a made up object. The object is supposed to be a piece of art that moves in a wave constantly. Though then, when person reaches over it, the top shiny layer will react to this motion and move in the same direction as the hand. It then creates a sense that the user is creating these waves. This piece doesn’t try to predict behavior, rather it reacts to the humans around it. That is the key part that makes this phenomenological. Additionally this is due to its subjectivity to the actions of the humans around it. The piece doesn’t try to solve the humans problems, only provides a reaction.
Mary Beth ends the field trip learning that design is more than just the product created. Each and every one of those products has a long back story that deepens as she learns more.