Designing for Utilization: Putting design principles into practice

Paula Kassenaar, Katharina Bredies, Elise van den Hoven


Designers do not only create usable products for a predefined purpose, but also to explore new materials and technologies. In doing so, they should not restrict themselves to existing conventions, but develop new ones out of the medium at hand. These new interface forms should encourage users to appropriate an object for their own purposes – i.e. utilize it. In this article, we will describe the development of a fabric interface prototype that should exploit the material properties and encourage utilization of the artefact. First we present how our theoretical perspective was translated into a concrete design. Starting from rather abstract principles about design for utilization, we document the process of breaking them down into practical design decisions. In this context, we also describe our use of a method called ‘Rip and Mix’, which has been developed to be appropriate for this kind of open-ended design problems. Finally, we discuss how appropriate we judge our design process and product as a ‘design for utilization’. We conclude that design without final goal is surprisingly hard to do, but can show the value of the medium used.



utilization; appropriation; discontinuities in design; undefined use purpose; fabrics and electronics

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