Title: Design with older people. Exotic and at the same time familiar
Authors: Huybrechts, Liesbeth
Issue Date: 30-Aug-2007
Publisher: Ecoles des Mines
Host Document: 3rd Living knowledge conference vol:3 issue:1 edition:1 pages:29-30
Conference: 3e conférence Savoirs vivants. Quand chercheurs et citoyens co-produisent les savoirs et les décisions scientifiques et techniques edition:3 location:Paris date:30 August - 9 September 2007
Abstract: Design does not only try to make life more beautiful but also particularly better. Basically all forms of design want to add something to or change something in the environment. Still we can make a difference between the more or the less innovative notions of what they want to add exactly. The more classical approaches emphasize merely functional and/or aesthetic design. Design then has to be as user-friendly, as pleasant or as nice as possible. The more innovative approaches of design, however, take it a step further. They integrate the environment, the political, social, economic or ecological context into their process of changing the environment.

Social and “transformational design” are two terms that sketch this rather “holistic” approach of design, which means that they take the specific context of the design into account. The term “experience design” takes it another step further in our interpretation. With this term we not only underline the process of changing the environment, but also the change of man’s experience of the environment. In this way psychological or biological systems become involved in the design process as well.

Social problems and phenomena are complex, chaotic and often intangible. Therefore they call for a multidisciplinary approach. The design for the health sector, the ecological environment or the third world does not always take the form of a delineated product either. A designer traditionally chops a problem into pieces with an eye on small solutions that are tangible in the short term (Design Council, 2007). Moreover, designing for social problems is not always experienced as being very attractive. Also sectors for which designs are made, like the health sector in this case, do not seldom expect fast and tangible solutions. With short-term solutions we can quickly show off and score, but they do not necessarily lead to an integrated approach to complex problems.
In this case study we try to counter this short-term thinking by going through a research process together with a multidisciplinary team of older people, health care workers, designers, students and lecturers. Together we wish to learn what design can mean for the care of the elderly and vice versa. The students and lecturers of the Catholic School of Limburg (Media and Design Academy and Department of Public Health Care) therefore decided to address an always growing group that at the same time has been neglected by design in our society. In the project “Carefree Living in the care for the elderly” they asked the question how they could make the life of older people in the services for the elderly more “carefree” and maybe even more pleasant by using media. This case also surpasses the services for the elderly. We wish to underline the importance of social and experience design. Besides the already mentioned complexity of social problems, the term experience design emphasizes the complexity of the world of experience of the individual. Experimenting with new research approaches can make design more socially relevant and, conversely, make social, economic and artistic sectors more adapted to the world of experience for its target audience.

The ever changing technology is the tool of designers who wish to change the world. “We know what technology can do, but what is it for?”, John Tackara - director of the “design futures network. Doors of Perception” – asks. With technology we can build magical constructions which make barely visible things of society visible (Zielinski, 2006). In the “Alzheimer 100” project Thakara for example made the experiences of people suffering from Alzheimer visible through weblogs, videos or pictures. He and his team will translate this material into new products and services in the long run (Thakara, 2007). Technology, however, makes many people feel anxious and thus needs to be developed in close coherence with the current society in order to implement some real changes.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa-p
Appears in Collections:Literary Theory and Cultural Studies, Leuven
LUCA School of Arts
Audiovisuele kunsten LUCA-Fac.Kunsten

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