Things are physical objects, design in its tangible form, whose function is to prove that change is taking place across almost all cultures. The human-centered design (HCD) prioritises people’s “needs, capabilities, and behaviour” (Norman, 2013, p. 8) which reduces the risk of designing for its own sake and drives the creation of impactful solutions.
The purpose of things is to make life easier. However, the overload of things might become overwhelming due to the pressure, anxiety, and frustration overconsumption creates. With the steepening production curve, the meaning of things starts shifting. This transition is beautifully captured by Schnur’s “21 Common Things” (Schnur, 2017) installation which portraits daily objects as a piece of art. The perception of things is based on the combination of societal pressures and our own independent decisions.
“With the steepening production curve, the meaning of things starts shifting.”
Various objects are physical evidence of social problems in either tangible or intangible form. HCD focuses on issues such as health problems, e.g. arthritis, to which the design team Handy-Fasteners designed a solution of magnetic fasteners to fight fiddly buttons.
Another example of design being useful is creating sustainable packaging and products from recycled materials that reduce carbon footprint and/or protect the environment. The Royal College of Arts’ student Felix Pöttinger uses washed-up seagrass to create his sustainable packaging (Tucker, 2017), whilst IKEA incorporates the recycled plastic bottles into its new kitchen (IKEA, 2017).
“Things are the medium through which change gets delivered to the public.”
As a result, we see the importance of design in dealing with our current struggles, be it the daily top button or the monthly consumption of PET-bottles. Nevertheless, designers can always (sooner or later, possibly during another lifetime) create a solution tailor-made to our needs and requirements. Some will be more useful, purposeful, and meaningful than others, depending on the culture. Things are the medium through which change gets delivered to the public.
IKEA (2017). IKEA launches kitchen made from recycled PER-bottles [Online]. Poole: IKEA, Available at: http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/this-is-ikea/newsroom/press-release/ikea-launches-kitchen-made-from-recycled-pet-bottles/ (Accessed 23/4/2017)
Norman, D. A. (2013). The Design of everyday things. London: MIT Press
Schnur, T. (2017) 21 Common Things exhibition [Online]. Available at: http://www.thomasschnur.com/english/news/21-common-things/ (Accessed 3/4/2017)
Tucker, E. (2017) Biodegradable seagrass packaging promises to reduce plastic waste [Online]. Poole: Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/03/30/felix-pöttinger-biodegradable-poc-packaging-seagrass-design/ (Accessed 20/4/2017)