What do eco and logica mean these days? The societal struggle of facing climate change? Or that we need to ‘grow’ towards a better understanding of what looms ahead? Perhaps. Eco-logica reminds us that virtually anything that we encounter exists in relation. Nobody is an island, and no object … either. Every event that we experience connects to other events and things and beings.
Design is about inducing change, about applying a focused, aesthetic intervention to complex relations of things and beings. To make this change ‘stick’, we create designs that forge new, desired relations, and let undesired relations dry up eventually. For example, when we look at our Everyday, the mundane reality of living mostly predictable lives of ‘Corona et labora’, what needs to happen for a new product to get introduced into our lives, how does this product need to behave and adapts so we allow it to stay with us? These are questions that product designers have pondered for decades. And yet, we find new answers once in a while, especially when studying how products can change us and our practices. Remember last time that you looked out a window to check the time on the local church tower. Right, did not think so.
As a designer now, life gets even more complicated (in a good way): unlike the simple, passive products of the 20th century, 21st century products start to act, connect, learn and do unanticipated things. This is why the theme of ‘eco-logica’ resonates with me: once we deal with products that talk to each other, that figure out what is around them and us, and how they might cooperate, then we have reached a new level: ecologies of products. Take for instance the ‘Haptic Symbol’ project, it opens new communication channels for machines to tell us when we are in danger. Or the ‘Transmission Ticker’, which lets us experience the flow of invisible data in our homes. Or the ‘Maturing Exoskeleton’ that literally grows on you.
But we are not there yet; many products still refuse to play together. The current developmental stage of connected and smart products can be labeled ‘playful toddler’, nothing more. Time will tell whether the next stage will be known as ‘lollipop warlord’ or ‘citizen whizkid’. Anyway, small steps. Reality has more moving parts than we commonly think or feel comfortable thinking about. Luckily, design is here to help.