Reflection: values and functionality

David’s post “Balancing values and usability” reminds me of a book I read in this summer. It is written in Chinese, which is called “Creative Economy.” The book introduced ten famous designers in Asia, inclusive of their profiles, works and design philosophies. I would like to discuss more about the “values” of designers based on the ideas from these designers.

Naoto Fukasawa, a Japanese industrial designer, joining “ID two”( the predecessor of IDEO) then helped set up IDEO in Japan in 1996. (brief introduction and works of Naoto Fukasawa, )He owns his studio and sets up a new product brand ’±0’. His “without thought” theory argues designers should keep observing and reflecting on people’s unconscious behaviors which would contribute to good design. To him, designers need to reduce bringing their personal values to design. He believes that it is improper to make every design has the designer’s style because design products should serve users and different needs, not designers and their own preference.

Another instance is Samsung design team. (samsung design from Businessweek)Through 15 years reformation and innovation, Samsung has a good reputation for 3C product design and earns lots of design awards(including IDEA).They cares much about developing the design style of Samsung. The product should be recognized as “Samsung design” in the first gaze or it will be dumped. Furthermore, Samsung believes design products should engage the soul of the country and its culture. It is the key of success.

It seems to me that the values of designer David discussed(I might be wrong) are more about what the design “should be” based on social and personal values. Even though the final design cannot achieve the goal of “functionality” perfectly, at least it presents the message designers would like to communicate: what the world should be; what issues human beings should care about. Does it also a way of designing for a better world?

As to the two cases I mentioned, the values of designers are different. They are more related to appearance and style of design products. This kind of values are really “personal” since it is about making the product special and recognizable, no matter for designer him/herself or for business. The goal of this kind of values is to show the brand; furthermore, to create the brand experience. It is unavoidable because designers are also human beings and they cannot get rid of themselves when doing design. If appearance and style could balance with functionality well, the design products are probably very popular. Finally, the special and outstanding appearance and style might become more important than functionality. People buy the product because of the former, instead of thinking deeply about the latter.


  1. houssian

    It seems Yenning that you are talking about some of the issues that Erik and his buddy Harold bring up in the Design Way. The designer as facilitator seems to be what Fukasawa is advocating, and there are of course other ways of approaching design, and I’m hesitant to say this approach is better than the other (make a normative claim). That said it seems like there are times when the situation calls for a different relationship between designer and client. Maybe I’m advocating that each situation is different and should be evaluated and negotiated when you enter into the relationship, and possibly throughout the relationship if it’s an enduring one. Darn it, I can’t avoid being normative sometimes.

  2. yenning

    I agree with you, Aaron. Designers should think about and decide on their relationship with clients depending on different situation.

    Actually, I am not quite sure if Fukasawa considered himself as a facilitator. He is very much into understanding what users really want, which they might not notice. (It is really like finding out the “desiderata” in The Design Way) But meanwhile he strongly disagree that designers design things with their style. He even hate designers put their name on the products they designed.

    For me, I think it is impossible to get rid of personal style on design product, no matter its appearance and content. Trying to use ideas we learn in this class, designers perceive the world with their assumptions and lifeworlds. I just wonder if interaction designers should try to be invisible because they are serving users, not themselves.


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