Topic Refinement

This week I am reading Daniel Echeverri and Sarah Rutherford‘s (pdf) theses to gain some clarity on the direction I am moving in. I am very much interested in how design creates meaning (our understanding of reality), but with the topic begin so broad/abstract, I am seeking an opportunity to join in the current conversation.

I also began reading The Shape of Design (pdf), by Frank Chimero.

Thoughts on Rutherford:

  •  I need to clarify a theory that I will ultimately test. In Sarah’s case, she wanted to test whether design attracts customers because it affirms some aspect of the customer’s self-concept.
  • Consumer behavior. She attempted to understand mental models in regards to how people make choices based on design.
  • Self-concept is a very interesting topic. I wish that I was more interested in consumerism. It would certainly be more convenient, considering the field I work in. Frankly, my top priority is not helping companies sell things. My top priority is helping people live better, more meaningful lives. I believe design has power in that it communicates to the world how others perceive “the good life.”
  • Why do people choose products in line with their self image? Self image is constantly shifting. It is who we perceive ourselves to be. We are naturally drawn to things that are similar to ourselves, or who we wish to be.
  • This preference is not innate, but instead is built from exposure. The patterns and objects learned through visual processing form in an individual’s mind the prototypical representatives of particular categories (Nedungadi, 1985).” “The pattern testing that an individual uses to identify desirable things is built upon what that individual has experienced, the identification of common categories, the categories he has then formed based on emotion and the desire to engage with or avoid a given target.
    If preference is built in exposure, then design absolutely plays a role in what people ultimately want. Does design essentially tell people what to want?

Thesis Topic Refinement on “Meaning”:

  • Mindfulness + Design. The role of mindfulness in the design process.
  • The Good Life—Every single thing we design is similar to a “vote” regarding what we think is important, and communicates to the world how we can get the most out of life. People naturally look to others for answers. Simply, we all move towards things that make us feel better, and away from things that make us feel bad. In a lot of ways, design is a tool to enhance experiences (make life feel better).
  • Good/Better/Best—We all want to live better lives, but how do we know what is ultimately better? When do we choose something that is just “good” versus the “best” option? Do we all want the “best” option—yet there are things that stop us (such as price, self-worth, accessibility, etc.)? My theory is that we all ultimately want the “best”—as we see it to be.
  • Happiness—There are a lot of happiness studies being done. I actually read the book Stumbling on Happiness a few years back and it was pretty interesting. How does design mimic/support/create the notion of happiness?
  • How Design Creates Meaning in Culture (how it shapes culture)— a call for submissions for a conference that deals with this very topic: “The conference aims to investigate how design comes out of the interaction between a practice (which seeks to change the state of things) and a culture (which makes sense of this change). The way this happens evolves with time: practices and cultures evolve and so do the ways they interact; the attention that is paid at different moments to one or other of these interacting polarities also evolves. In the current period of turbulent transformation of society and the economy, it is important to go back and reflect on the cultural dimension of design, its capacity to produce not only solutions but also meanings, and its relations with pragmatic aspects.”

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