All tagged Design

How We Designed Microplastics into our Diet

Disposable plastic and mesh bags both tick all the boxes when it comes to meeting business and consumer needs, from economic and functional standpoints. But when we look at their entire life cycle, we see that plastic and mesh bags are not a good choice, but a terrible one. It’s a reminder of a question we need to ask ourselves before designing or producing anything: have we really considered the wider system impact? If design choice got us into the plastic problem we now face, then we need to think carefully about how to more responsibly design our future to avoid making the same mistakes.

Problem Solving is Complicated. Design is not the Panacea

George Washington died from an unknown malady in 1799. It probably didn’t help that profuse bloodletting was used to cure his fever. After all, bloodletting was a two thousand year old cure-all; a panacea used for many ailments. We have a history of turning ideas into panaceas. We’re probably doing it again with the practice of design. Design isn’t a panacea. To wrestle with the challenges of today we need to draw from everything we’ve learned as a species. Philosophy, science, history, geography, engineering, arts and economics (to name a few) all offer a powerful ways of engaging with our world. We need to be comfortable with the discomfort and ambiguity of mixing and matching many ways of thinking to suit our challenges. Lest we risk metaphorically draining the lifeblood with the single minded application of design as the only way of thinking about our problems. 

The Five Principles of Good Systems

It’s hard to know if something we make is good, yet it’s an important question. We keep building systems with parasitical business models, addictive personalities and long-term side effects. Classic performance measures, like business growth, make economic sense, but there are deeper social, environmental and cultural issues at stake. Instead, I propose a set of five principles, curated from the best of philosophy, history, economics, science and design. By evaluating the things we make according to a set of concrete principles we can create products, services and systems that are in balance with the world.

Experimenting With Technology

A human centred design philosophy places a premium on understanding human needs first, and then shaping technology to suit. However, the creative experimentation with developing technology is still a crucial part of the innovation process. It helps discover new opportunities, weaknesses and capabilities of the technology that underpins human needs. Christopher Roosen explores. 

Can the Internet Be More Than a Soapbox?

People are consuming dangerous materials in a desperate hope for medical cures. It’s an old problem, but I think the network technologies we’ve constructed make it harder for these sorts of ideas to be expunged. We’ve given edge beliefs the largest soapbox in the world. Instead of being brought out into the light of the day, challenged and deconstructed, beliefs are driven down deeper into the fabric of the internet. Christopher Roosen explores. 

Planned Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence, the process of intentionally designing things to fall out of fashion, function or repair makes a fundamental assumption of infinite resources that can be converted to things. But ecosystems are not infinite. So the onus is on all of us to make better choices. Those of us who make things and those of us who buy them.

Responsibility for the Things We Make

Many of the things we make have secondary opportunities for action. Examples include: vehicles, social media, mobile phones, office supplies and more. Whether the harmful action is advertised or not, if it is easy to use it in the unintended fashion, and it works well to achieve a goal, then people will discover the usage and use it that way. Or, people will overuse something (e.g. cars) or use it in anger (e.g. social media). I’m sure you can think of other things we make that support and enable devastating outcomes because of their design. Why do we make them in the first place? Why do we allow them? When will we take responsibility for the things we make? 

A Thinking System - Mindsets Over Processes, Activities and Tools

Creative thinking and innovation are hard and we keep looking for one discipline or one perfect process to encompass all others. History shows we are at our best when different disciplines collide with each other in a non-linear fashion. Rather than choose one discipline over another, or focusing too heavily on thinking tools, I’m in the middle of developing a flexible thinking system made up of six fundamental mindsets. Like using pieces of Lego, I’m exploring how we can use the core six mindsets to build our own custom creative thinking processes and take on any problem we face.