Saturday, 9 February 2013

Design for Emotional Durability: An Eco Imperative

I heard in brief about the work of Jonathan Chapman, a pioneer of Sustainable Design on Radio 4. What follows is some info on the subject. RS.

Ref Cooler Solutions


by Heidi Mok, 12. 07.2011

Green and “eco” design are undoubtedly hot topics in the world of design today.  More and more products gracing our store shelves promote themselves as sustainable, recyclable, and efficient.  However, such “green” claims can sometimes bear little substance given the reality of our consumer habits.
Our appetite for new products, whether driven by fashion or convenience has huge environmental implications, regardless of that product’s environmental story.  In his article “Modern Life is Rubbish”, Jonathan Chapman eloquently observes that “… the inefficient consumer machine continues to surge wastefully forth, but now it does so with recycled materials instead of virgin ones.”

Of course, we shouldn’t discount the importance of material reduction, energy efficiency, recyclability, sustainability, and social responsibility in design.  All approaches are important elements in the pursuit of “green”.  However, Chapman argues that there exists another important element to the “green design” approach; design for emotional durability.  Personal electronic devices are of particular concern.  People seem to fall in and out of “love” with their cell phones before the devices actually become technologically obsolete.  And so, while we can design products with friendlier materials that last longer in a functional sense, perhaps we must also consider that object’s emotional life span.
Chapman’s research provides some useful tools in designing emotionally significant products.  Elements of his framework that stand out are narrative and surface.  When users share a unique personal history with an object, it is said to possess a narrative.  When, how, and from who we acquire the product are all significant elements of the narrative that we create.  A silk scarf purchased from an artsy Parisian boutique will probably have a greater emotional significance that one bought from a discount retailer.  As for surface, it is important that a product age well and even develop “character”.  Through our use and even mis-use of a product, we create a patina that imparts ownership and uniqueness.  Favorite jeans are worn for years and reclaimed barn board resurfaces as a sophisticated interior design element.  Thus, designing greener products means careful consideration of material, energy, end-of life disposal and that product’s potential to be emotionally captivating. In this way. “disposable” bamboo cutlery is not “green”, but your grandmother’s silverware most certainly is.
Designers can strategically create products that have more emotional relevance. Ethnographic research is a useful tool that can help designers discover hidden customer needs and aspirations.  In such a way we can prepare designers to create compelling products that connect with customers.  Emotionally durable products not only have a “greener” story, but from a business perspective, make good sense too!
Check out MIT’s DesignIssues, Issue 4, Design for (Emotional) Durability by Jonathan Chapman, or try Chapman’s Book: Emotionally Durable Design: Objects Expeiences and Empathy.

Johnathan Chapman, some Biodata.

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Dr Jonathan Chapman
Jonathan Chapman (born 1974) is a Professor of Sustainable Design at the University of Brighton's Faculty of Arts, UK, and Course Leader of the MA Sustainable Design, which he co-wrote and launched in 2009.
Engaging with issues of design, ecology and the human condition, Professor Chapman's research, teaching and consultancy seek to reveal the behavioural phenomena that shape patterns of consumption and waste. His work is widely cited in books, journals and a range of popular international publications and broadcast media including, CNN International,[1] New Statesman,[2] New York Times,[3] The Telegraph,[4] The Independent[5] and several features and interviews on BBC Radio 4.[6][7] In 2009, New Scientist described him as 'a mover and shaker', and, 'a new breed of sustainable design thinker'.[8]
He has written two books; his monograph, Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy[9] and his co-edited work, Designers, Visionaries and Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays.[10] Following publication of his first book, The term 'emotionally durable design' has now been adopted widely by designers, students and educators around the world; becoming a shorthand to describe the complex and manifold factors that determine the endurance of value and meaning in a given object, space or experience.
In 2008 the Science and Technology Sub-Committee 1 of the House of Lords called upon him to present both written and oral evidence as part of their Enquiry into Waste Reduction; advising on issues of product lifespan, consumer behaviour and sustainable design within the specific context of EU environmental legislation, and associated governmental policies.[11] This ongoing research into the behavioural dimensions of product life extension present counterpoints to our throwaway society, by developing design tools, methods and frameworks that enhance the resilience of relationships established between people and things. These include approaches ranging from practice-led studies into the way various material surfaces age, to the development of theoretical frameworks to support not the design of durable ‘products’, but the design of durable ‘meanings’, and ‘values’, that products deliver.
He is co-founder of the Inheritable Futures Laboratory, a reviewer for Earthscan Publishers, The Taylor & Francis Group and Berg, and a member of the Editorial Advisory Group for the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice (Intellect Books). He has been employed as a sustainable design consultant for a number of international corporations including The Science Museum (UK), Clarks International and sports lifestyle brand, Puma.
  • Chapman, J., Meaningful Stuff: Design, Ecology & the Human Condition, Routledge, London (forthcoming, 2014)
  • Chapman, J. & Gant, N. (Eds), Designers, Visionaries & Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays, Earthscan, London, 2007
  • Chapman, J., Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy, Earthscan, London, 2005
Key Texts
  • Chapman, J., 'Emotionally Sustainable Design', in Walker, S. & Giard, J. [eds], The Handbook of Sustainable Design, Berg, London, 2012
  • Chapman, J., ‘Subject Object Relationships and Emotionally Durable Design’, a contributing chapter in Cooper, T. (Ed), Longer Lasting Solutions: Alternatives to the Throwaway Society, Ashgate, London, 2010, pp61–76
  • Chapman, J., 'No Alternative', in Predan. B., Krecic, P. & Subic, S. (Eds), Sustainable Alternatives in Design, Pekinpah, Slovenia, 2009, pp124–132
  • Chapman, J., ‘Design for [Emotional] Durability’, Design Issues, vol xxv, Issue 4, Autumn, pp29–35, 2009
  • Chapman, J., ‘Evidence Paper’, in House of Lords Science and Technology Committee 1: Enquiry into Waste Reduction, House of Lords, London, February 2008, pp56–58
  • Chapman, J., ‘Sustaining Relationships Between People and Things’, in Desmet, M. P., van Erp, J. & Karlsonn, M., Design & Emotion Moves, Design & Emotion Society, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008, pp47–65
  • Margolin, V., Doordan, D., Brown, B., Woodham, J., Garland, K., Chapman, J., Cooper, R., Lee, S., Salinas, O., Boddington, A., Harper, C. and Pelcl, J., 'Brighton 05-06-07', Design Issues, Winter 2008, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp91–93
  • Chapman, J., 'Desire, Disappointment and Domestic Waste', in Pavillion Commissions Programme, Pavilion, Leeds, 2007, pp4–11
Further Information

[edit] References

  1. ^ Charlie Devereux, ‘Disposing of our throwaway culture’, CNN International, 21 October 2007
  2. ^ Lois Rogers, 'Consumer Adultery – the new British vice', New Statesman, 5 February 2007, pp31-32
  3. ^ Jon Mooallem, 'The Afterlife of Cell phones', The New York Times, 13 January 2008, pp12-13
  4. ^ Sarah Lonsdale, ‘Sustainable design ideas from young designers’, The Daily Telegraph, 12 July 2011, UK, p21
  5. ^ Will Anderson, 'The Green House', The Independent, 26 July 2006, p13
  6. ^ ‘You and Yours’, BBC Radio 4 (9 July 2008)
  7. ^ ‘Click-On’, BBC Radio 4 (28 January 2007)
  8. ^ 'How to do your bit for the planet', New Scientist, 15 October 2008, p7
  9. ^ Chapman, J., Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy, Earthscan, London, 2005
  10. ^ Chapman, J. & Gant, N. (Eds), Designers, Visionaries & Other Stories: A Collection of Sustainable Design Essays, Earthscan, London, 2007
  11. ^ Chapman, J., ‘Evidence Paper’, in House of Lords Science and Technology Committee 1: Enquiry into Waste Reduction, House of Lords, London, February 2008, pp56-58
A “sea” of e-waste.  Photograph from Chris Jordan, Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption, Cell Phones Orlando, 2004  Image originated with the first article of this blog entry by Heidi Mok

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