Everyday design

Within this post I want to explore the area of everyday design. This involves thoughts on everyday design, design-by-use or design-in-use, and non intentional design. All these approaches to design share that users appropriate designed objects to fit them into their own context. This approach questions the common assumption that ‘creativity’ is something that only ‘creative people’ have, a view described in the post on creativity. Kim and Lee (2014, 2) describe everyday design as follows: “However, adapting and changing everyday artifacts does not depend solely on creative people but rather  involves everyone.” (Kim; Lee, 2014, 2) Brandes, Stich and Wender go even further and argue that the ” phenomenon of NID refers to an innate ability of humankind to develop solutions for situational problems through the use of what is at hand.” (Brandes; Stich; Wendes, 2009, 22)
These kinds of appropriation separate the intended use and the actual use of the item as it in itself a ‘creative process ‘ as observed by Kim and Lee (2014, 2):”When use is detached from design, people’s behaviors in relation to designed artifacts are no longer the result of design. Rather, they are creative processes referred to in this study as everyday design.”
But the process is nonetheless different from the creative process of the professional designer as Brandes, Stich and Wender (2009, 12) outline: “There is no impulse to consciously create. Non-intentional design is neither defined by, nor infused with, the will to design.” The authors state three other motivations that might lead to everyday design: “It [non-intentional design] arises from temporary situations of deficit, from convenience and from playfulness.” ( ibid, 13)
Even though the insight of how people interact with their environment in an everyday setting can be very important for designers, it is not something commonly shared as Kim and Lee (2014, 2) observe:
“Individuals who create everyday designs are not aware of the potential value of everyday design as a resource for professional designers, nor do they even acknowledge what they are doing.”  In the second part of this quote they highlight a very important point that resonates with observations by other researchers as well. Many of these alterations are not thought-through activities, but might rather be unconscious, spontaneous events. I assume that to some extent this relates to tacit knowledge about the everyday tasks, movements and observations.From the outside the decisions made seem opaque and Brandes, Stich and Wender (2009, 115) suggest, that they might also be so from the inside:  “Non-intentional design oscillates between conscious and sub-conscious actions, and we can rarely tell by simply looking at repurposed objects why they were used in this way. And most people who implement changes of use are often not able to analyse why they did so in retrospect.”
Wakkari and Maestri (2008, 12) explore this notion through observations in family homes and conclude that this kind of design is not static, but rather an evolution of practices:
“The simplest of appropriations are often opportunistic and temporary; however, it is through experiencing artifacts in use that further ideas, combinations, and recombination are generated, forming  new routines and systems. (Wakkari; Maestri, 2008, 12)
Brandes, Stich and Wender (2009, 150)offer the alternative case that: “the spontaneously selected object fulfils its new task satisfactorily, so that there is no longer the need to acquire a new product.”
They go on to observe that everyday design is a “creative process” (ibid), which implies an element of time. In this context it is interesting to observe that Kim and Lee talk about “design activity” and “transformations of artifacts” (Kim; Lee, 2014, 2)Brandes, Stich and Wender (2009, 150) add in this context in regards to the outcome of the everyday design: “An increase in the time available for solving a problem results in equally higher expectations regarding the result.”
Brandes, Stich and Wender (2009, 151) also bring up the point of reversibility. They distinguish between “things that are only repurposed for a short period of time and those that are repurposed permanently.” (ibid) One of the aspects that might influence the point of reversability is the question of how far the object is changed through its new use. The authors unfortunately do not go further into other factors that might influence reversability, such as testing out ideas or not wanting to settle on a solution. I will see if I can find more information on this.
Kim and Lee used a picture and text database (‘Wikiuse’), which has been shared with professional designers to anlyse how these everyday designs would influence the design process. They give a very positive view on this technique and emphasise that it gives further background:
“However, we found that designers provided with cases of everyday design were more immersed in the actual context. The designers examined the actual context when examining cases of everyday design and then described the characteristics of the target group with confidence.” (Kim; Lee, 2014, 10)
In this context they also discuss the role of interaction between agents and artifacts (Kim; Lee, 2014, 12) and discussed that is was easy to see by the designers:”Rather, professional designers first recognized interactions—relationships between actors and artifacts—from cases of everyday design”. (Kim; Lee, 2014, 10)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s