Products are cultural personalities.
The daily life of countless people is defined by how products are produced and how raw material is processed. Products are silent representatives of global culture. For the endusers, products moreover become an active and essential contribution to daily life. Because of products, we live differently, we take part in experiences that seemed impossible only decades ago – let alone centuries ago. Serial products are rooted so deeply in society, that I regard them as cultural participants.
For a designer, adopting such a perspective implicates a great potential as well as a responsibility. The values of “design” are an important part of what is offered to our culture and where it might be heading. It raises the question, in what culture I wish to live in, and how I can contribute to positive changes.
My vision of a meaningful culture is based on empathy. A culture wherein there is time and priority to feel – enabling a clear view on the inner realm of experience as well as our social and material surroundings. A culture that is not so much characterized by rational-moral efficiency, but that rather follows the unclouded expression of compassion.
Empathy in product design simply means to feel and imagine as clearly as possible what it would be like to live with a product, to touch and to use it, to be surrounded by it on a daily basis, to take part in its production or to experience its ecological impact. Sustainability then becomes a self-evident consequence.
If a product is perceived within its fullest context, it implies the invitation to bring together all the aspects of design to one meaningful whole. I see this as a responsibility of product design, with great relevance for the challenges of our time.