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Emotionally durable design

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As an approach to sustainable design, "emotionally durable design reduces the consumption and waste of natural resources by increasing the resilience of relationships established between consumers and products."[1]

According to this theory, the crisis of unsustainability is a crisis of behaviour and not one of materials and energy alone. Emotionally durable design looks beyond approaches to sustainable design such as design for disassembly, design for recycling or the specification of low impact materials for example. Instead, it looks to the behavioural drivers of our short-term and unsatisfactory engagements with the material world, and develops strategies to enable longer lasting products that will be cherished and kept for longer. In this way, “emotionally durable design reframes the environmental paradigm, increasing resource productivity and reducing waste by elongating the lifespan of products.”[2]. The theory of emotionally durable design was first published by the British academic Dr Jonathan Chapman (born 1974) of the University of Brighton's Faculty of Arts, in the book Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy.[3]

Today, the theory of emotionally durable design is widely cited and reviewed in books, journals and a range of popular international publications and broadcast media including, New Scientist[4]CNN International[5], New Statesman[6], The House of Lords[7], New York Times[8], The Telegraph[9], The Independent[10] and several features and interviews on BBC Radio 4[11][12]. The terms ‘emotionally durable design’, ‘emotionally durable’ and ‘emotional durability’ have been widely adopted by designers, students and educators around the world; becoming shorthand for the complex and manifold factors that determine the endurance of value and meaning in a given object.

Enduring meaning and value[edit]

As a strategic approach, "emotionally durable design provides a useful language to describe the contemporary relevance of designing responsible, well made, tactile products which the user can get to know and assign value to in the long-term."[13] According to Hazel Clark and David Brody of Parsons The New School for Design in New York, “emotionally durable design is a call for professionals and students alike to prioritise the relationships between design and its users, as a way of developing more sustainable attitudes to, and in, design things.”[14]

In the emotionally durable design context, product durability is as much about desire, love, fascination and attachment as it is fractured polymers, cracked screens or blown circuitry; it is "the idea that an item will last because of its emotional connection with the user, rather than because of its physical durability".[15] It presents strategic counterpoints to our throwaway society, by developing design tools, methods and frameworks that enhance the resilience of relationships established between people and things; supporting not the design of durable ‘products’ per se, but the design of durable meanings, and values, that products deliver.

In the book Emotionally Durable Design (Earthscan, 2005), the author describes how we engage with sustainability more fully through exploring product lifespans; relating this to the emotional needs of users. It describes how design can deliver "profound and sophisticated user experiences that penetrate the psyche over time"[16]; giving the example of refilling a fountain pen with ink or "re-honing the blade of a sushi knife on a well-worn whetstone"[17]. Such slow and cathartic experiences describe the "repair and care which takes place over a long period of time, and demonstrate what Chapman describes as having empathy with the products we choose to live with"[18].

To understand why we have become so profligate in our consumption, "we should look to the underlying motivations of consumers; following the notion of emotionally durable design, there is likely to be a move away from mass-production and towards tailor-made articles and products designed and manufactured with greater craftsmanship".[19] Dr Kate Fletcher of London College of Fashion describes how, “emotionally durable design explains appropriateness as a function of a product's emotional presence, evolution and growth; it is not enough for a product to provoke an emotional response within the user on one occasion; it must do this repeatedly. In effect, a relationship with an object must be developed over an extended period of time.”[20]

6-point framework for emotionally durable design[edit]

Dr Chapman was invited to present his theory of emotionally durable design at the House of Lords (2008) to support their Enquiry into Waste Reduction (2008). He explained that "the 'design for durability' paradigm has important implications beyond its conventional interpretation, in which product longevity is considered solely in terms of an object’s physical endurance—whether cherished or discarded"[21]. There is little point designing physical durability into products, if people lack the desire to keep them.

To support the House of Lords in their enquiry, he provided the following 6-point experiential framework (and supporting annotations), as follows:

  1. Design for Narrative: users share a unique personal history with the product; this often relates to when, how and from whom the object was acquired
  2. Design for Detachment: users feel no emotional connection to the product, have low expectations and thus perceive it in a favorable way due to a lack of emotional demand or expectation (this also suggests that attachment may actually be counterproductive, as it elevates the level of expectation within the user to a point that is often unattainable)
  3. Design for Surface: the product is physically ageing well, and developing a tangible character through time, use and sometimes misuse
  4. Design for Attachment: users feel a strong emotional connection to the product, due to the service it provides, the information it contains and the meaning it conveys
  5. Design for Fiction: users are delighted or even enchanted by the product as it is not yet fully understood or know by the user; these are often recently purchased products that are still being explored and discovered by the user
  6. Design for Consciousness: the product is perceived as autonomous and in possession of its own free will; it is quirky, often temperamental and interaction is an acquired skill that can be fully acquired only with practice

Source: House of Lords[22]

Toward longer lasting products[edit]

Commercial interest in the lifespans of manufactured objects can be traced back to Bernard London’s introduced of the term planned obsolescence in 1932, made popular by Vance Packard in his book The Waste Makers. Packard’s dualistic theories of functional obsolescence and psychological obsolescence assert that "the deliberate shortening of product lifespans was unethical, both in its profit-focused manipulating of consumer spending, and its devastating ecological impact through the nurturing of wasteful purchasing behaviours".[23]

Emotionally durable design is a call for professionals and students alike to "prioritise the relationships between design and its users, as a way of developing more sustainable attitudes to, and in, design things".[24] In 2008, the UK was disposing of "1.1 million tonnes of electronic waste per year, and it has been forecast that this will double within the next 15 years"[25]. "Between 1994-2004 the consumption of household goods and services in the UK rose by 67%, and household energy consumption by 7%. Consumption is not only growing in magnitude, but the throughput of manufactured goods is also developing pace; the pattern of consumption with many types of consumer goods is to shorten their functional lives, as goods are predestined as waste"[26]

According to Dr Chapman, "the process of consumption is, and has always been, motivated by complex emotional drivers, and is about far more than just the mindless purchasing of newer and shinier things; it is a journey towards the ideal or desired self, that through cyclical loops of desire and disappointment, becomes a seemingly endless process of serial destruction"[27]. Products may thus be described as illustrative of an individual’s aspirations, and serve to define us existentially. As such, "possessions are used as symbols of what we are, what we have been, and what we are attempting to become"[28], whilst also providing an archaic means of possession by enabling the consumer to incorporate[29] the meanings signified to them by the object. Emotionally durable design "seeks to overcome our preoccupation with box-fresh experiences in order to develop a material culture where there is a continuous narrative of progressive change and meaningful, mutual growth".[30] Taking us toward sustainable consumption, through intelligent product design.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. Chapman, J., ‘Design for [Emotional] Durability’, Design Issues, vol xxv, Issue 4, Autumn, pp29-35, 2009
  2. Chapman, J., Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy, Earthscan, 2005, p24
  3. Chapman, Jonathan (June 5, 2005). Emotionally durable design : objects, experiences and empathy (Repr. ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 224. ISBN 978-1844071814. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Emotionally-Durable-Design-Objects-Experiences/dp/1844071812#reader_1844071812. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  4. 'How to do your bit for the planet', New Scientist, 15th October, 2008, p7
  5. Charlie Devereux, ‘Disposing of our throwaway culture’, CNN International, October 21, 2007
  6. Lois Rogers, 'Consumer Adultery - the new British vice', New Statesman, 05 February, 2007, pp31-32
  7. 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
  8. Jon Mooallem, 'The Afterlife of Cell phones', The New York Times, 13 January, 2008, pp12-13
  9. Sarah Lonsdale, ‘Sustainable design ideas from young designers’, The Daily Telegraph, 12th July 2011, UK, p21
  10. Will Anderson, 'The Green House', The Independent, July 26, 2006, p13
  11. ‘You and Yours’, BBC Radio 4 (July 9, 2008)
  12. ‘Click-On’, BBC Radio 4 (January 28, 2007)
  13. Lacey, E. (2009). Contemporary ceramic design for meaningful interaction and emotional durability: A case study. International Journal of Design, 3(2), 87-92
  14. Clark, H. & Brody, D., Design Studies: A Reader, Berg, New York, US, 2009, p531
  15. "Made to Measure". The Red Carpet Project. 15 May 2011. http://www.redcarpetproject.com.au/?tag=zoe-tuckwell-smith.
  16. Chapman, J., Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy, Earthscan, 2005, p83
  17. Chapman, J., Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences & Empathy, Earthscan, 2005, p83
  18. Lacey, E. (2009). Contemporary ceramic design for meaningful interaction and emotional durability: A case study. International Journal of Design, 3(2), 87-92
  19. Ed Douglas (January 6, 2007). "Better by design: battling the throwaway culture". New Scientist. p. 31-35. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19325851.000-better-by-design-battling-the-throwaway-culture.html.
  20. Fletcher, K. (14 March 2008). "Sustainable Fashion & Textiles: Design Journeys". London, UK: Earthscan. p. 168. ISBN 978-1844074815. http://books.google.com/books/about/Sustainable_fashion_and_textiles.html?hl=sv&id=WYnrTaL_ICgC. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. Chapman, J., ‘Design for [Emotional] Durability’, Design Issues, vol xxv, Issue 4, Autumn, pp29-35, 2009
  24. Clark, H. & Brody, D., Design Studies: A Reader, Berg, New York, US, 2009, p531
  25. "Producer Responsibility : Waste Electrical and Electronic Equiment (WEEE}". protecting Scottsland's environment. Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. 6 May 2008. http://www.sepa.org.uk/producer/weee.htm. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  26. Ginn, F., Global Action Plan Consuming Passions: Do we have to shop till we drop 10 years of consumption in the UK Global Action Plan, London, 2004.
  27. Chapman, J., Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy, Earthscan, London, 2005
  28. Schultz, S. E., Kleine, R. E. and Kernan, J. B., ‘These are a few of my favourite things: Toward an explication of attachment as a consumer behaviour construct’, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 16, 1989, pp359-366
  29. Fromm, E., To Have or To Be, Abacus, London, UK, 1979
  30. Professor Stuart Walker, 'After Taste – The Power and Prejudice of Product Appearance', The Design Journal, vol 12, Issue 1, Berg, 2009, p19
Wikipedia
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