Shannon Hauff MFA Practicum Spring 2013
Designed to Challenge: Exploring a New Role for Domestic Utilitarian Design
The goal of Designed to Challenge is to reconsider the role of a domestic utilitarian object and the level of user interaction that the object requires. Out of frustration from my own personal anxieties, I began this project by creating a shelf that, instead of resting solidly and horizontally against a wall, balanced upon a single fulcrum projecting from the wall. I saw the standard shelf and thought, “Why are you being so lazy?” I wanted a product that would force me to focus my thoughts as well as my actions on a single, non-digital activity to force mindfulness through balance. The German industrial designer Dieter Rams created the 10 Commandments of Good Design, one of which claims that “good design is unobtrusive.” I am challenging this commandment.
By challenging the “commandment” that design should be unobtrusive, I am suggesting that there is value in the obtrusive. This value lies in, literally, stimulating the mind and encouraging us to continually learn from our environment. Recognizing the psychological power that objects can have on a person’s well-being, I constructed my own observational study in which I recruited 13 pairs of people to perform four balancing tasks with the shelf. From the study, I objectively viewed pairs search for shortcuts, define terretories, and learn and plan strategies to complete tasks. In its final form, the project became a habitable space with five designed objects that intentionally disrupt the user’s expectations. Designed to Challenge will continue to pursue human testing of these objects, learning experientially.