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Adaptive Products: Designing for Evolution rough Use - page 5 / 31





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If there is a single phrase that dominates the history of design it is “form follows function,”2 coined by Architect Louis Sullivan in 1896 and popularized in the early 20th century modernist movement. This maxim has served designers well but offers little insight into the social nature of form. Winston Churchill also remarked that “We shape our buildings, and afterwards they shape us.”3 He was observing how the cramped Chamber of the House of Commons did more than its function of holding Parliament members; its form changed the way they interacted with each other. Philosopher of technology Peter-Paul Verbeek, author of What Things Do, believes that products also “profoundly influence the behavior and experiences of users.”4 He describes how products mediate our interactions with the world, transforming the way it is perceived and affecting the ways we can act within it. Perhaps it is also true that we use our products, and afterwards they use us. Because products shape our lives they need to be designed with more than just function in mind. What happens when functional needs change? What if a product’s influence is undesirable? Stewart Brand, author of How Buildings Learn, proposes a modification to Churchill: “First we shape our buildings, then they shape us, then we shape them again—ad in initum. Function reforms form, perpetually.”5 But not all products are so easily reshaped because usually the of icial role of people is to have needs, purchase the product, and use it in the way it was designed. In reality people always try to modify and adapt products to changing needs and situations. Musician Brian Eno believes “an important aspect of design is the degree to which the object involves you in its own completion.”6 That sort of

2 3 4 5 6 Brand, 3. Ibid. Peter-Paul Verbeek, “Materializing Morality: Design Ethics and Technological Mediation, Scienc , Technology and Human Values, Vol. 31 no. 3 (May 2006): 361. Brand, 3. Brand, 11.

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