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How design influences our lives

Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa created a CD player which can be turned on by pulling the attached cord based on the behavioral pattern of people who are used to pulling a cord to turn on a ventilation fan in Japanese apartments.

Publication Date : 13-07-2012


Industrial design professor Shim Jae-jin has been carrying a pen by the German fountain pen company LAMY in his suit pocket for 12 years. Over the years, he developed affection toward it to the point where he doesn’t go anywhere without it.

“I always check whether I have the pen in my suit pocket and if it’s not there, I look for it everywhere,” said Shim. “It’s such a timeless design without unnecessary add-ons,” he added.

Design greatly influences our lives, more than most of us realise. A good design makes a close connection with users and exerts an influence on their lives.

Choi Soo-bin, a 24-year-old mobile web designer, said her new iPad has changed her lifestyle.

“I used to carry a laptop and recently bought a new iPad. It totally changed my lifestyle. I read books and magazines on the iPad and sketch my design ideas on it,” said Choi, who described her job title as a “user experience designer” who designs user-friendly interfaces on mobile systems.

Design is about more than just appearances, according to Shim ― it can changes people’s lives.

“Design is not something that is used to make things look good. It is embedded in our everyday lives such as in the transportation system to help people live efficiently, safely and comfortably,” said Shim, who is the former head of Seoul Design Foundation.

Choi described the “chemistry” between a well-designed product or space and its user.

“If I look at a product with good design or enter a beautifully-designed space, I develop a feeling toward it and soon I have affection for it,” Choi said. “It’s like chemistry ― I become attracted to the object or place.”

Some products are seductive enough to be praised as iconic.

The citrus squeezer Juicy Salif, designed by the French designer Philippe Starck, has been selling at a steady rate of 50,000 a year since its launch in 1990.

Yet, the primary value of design is to improve use, not to have too much focus on aesthetics, according to Shim.

“Art is something driven by instinct, but design has to be based on a rational and commercial purpose,” he explained.

Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa has taken a step further in user-centered design by incorporating people’s behavior patterns into design. His MUJI CD player looks like a simple circular device with a pull cord, resembling a ventilation fan found in Japanese apartments. The pull cord, however, enables people to instinctively turn on the CD player by pulling the cord just like they do for a cool breeze inside their apartments.

A shampoo bottle design by LG Household and Healthcare is another good example of behavior-inspired design. A set of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles look the same, but users can tell which one they should use by touching the distinct pattern on the bottles without having to open their eyes while in the shower.

The recent phenomenon of customized products is in line with the growing trend of people desiring a special design made exclusively for them.

As consumers’ expectations rise, many brands have started to create one-of-a-kind designs for selected customers. Adidas enables customers to create their own shoes that will be a perfect fit by choosing product types, colors and having their feet measured.

“The production of customised products became possible with developments in technology. The brand can simply enter data in their computer system and make a special product for a customer without spending too much money,” said Shim.

He noted innovative design does not start from a zero base, but means much improvement from the original design.

“Innovative design is born when there is an original design. The country which can make the original design is the one with real design power,” Shim said.


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