Transgenerational Design

Transgenerational design is the practice of making products and environments compatible with those physical and sensory impairments associated with human aging and which limit major activities of daily living. The term transgenerational design was coined in 1986, by Syracuse University industrial design professor James J. Pirkl to describe and identify products and environments that accommodate, and appeal to, the widest spectrum of those who would use them—the young, the old, the able, the disabled—without penalty to any group.
The transgenerational design concept emerged from his federally funded design-for-aging research project, Industrial design Accommodations: A Transgenerational Perspective. The project’s two seminal 1988 publications provided detailed information about the aging process; informed and sensitized industrial design professionals and design students about the realities of human aging; and offered a useful set of guidelines and strategies for designing products that accommodate the changing needs of people of all ages and abilities.

The transgenerational design concept establishes a common ground for those who are committed to integrating age and ability within the consumer population. Its underlying principle is that people, including those who are aged or impaired, have an equal right to live in a unified society.

Transgenerational design practice recognizes that human aging is a continuous, dynamic process that starts at birth and ends with death, and that throughout the aging process, people normally experience occurrences of illness, accidents and declines in physical and sensory abilities that impair one’s independence and lifestyle. But most injuries, impairments and disabilities typically occur more frequently as one grows older and experiences the effects of senescence (biological aging). Four facts clarify the interrelationship of age with physical and sensory vulnerability:

Within each situation, consumers expect products and services to fulfill and enhance their lifestyle, both physically and symbolically. Transgenerational design focuses on serving their needs through what Cagan and Vogel call “a value oriented product development process”. They note that a product is “deemed of value to a customer if it offers a strong effect on lifestyle, enabling features, and meaningful ergonomics” resulting in products that are “useful, usable, and desirable” during both short and long term use by people of all ages and abilities.:p.34

Transgenerational design is “framed as a market-aware response to population aging that fulfills the need for products and environments that can be used by both young and old people living and working in the same environment”.:p.16

Transgenerational design benefits all ages and abilities by creating a harmonious bond between products and the people that use them. It satisfies the psychological, physiological, and sociological factors desired—and anticipated—by users of all ages and abilities::p.32

Transgenerational design addresses each element and accommodates the user—regardless of age or ability—by providing a sympathetic fit and unencumbered ease of use. Such designs provide greater accessibility by offering wider options and more choices, thereby preserving and extending one’s independence, and enhancing the quality of life for all ages and abilities—at no group’s expense.

Transgenerational designs accommodate rather than discriminate and sympathize rather than stigmatize. They do this by:

Transgenerational design emerged during the mid-1980s coincident with the conception of universal design, an outgrowth of the disability rights movement and earlier barrier-free concepts. In contrast, transgenerational design grew out of the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (ADA), which prohibited “discrimination on the basis of age in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance”, or excluding, denying or providing different or lesser services on the basis of age. The ensuing political interest and debate over the Act’s 1978 amendments, which abolished mandatory retirement at age 65, made the issues of aging a major public policy concern by injecting it into the mainstream of societal awareness.

At the start of the 1980s, the oldest members of the population, having matured during the great depression, were being replaced by a generation of Baby Boomers, steadily reaching middle age and approaching the threshold of retirement. Their swelling numbers signaled profound demographic changes ahead that would steadily expand the aging population throughout the world.

Advancements in medical research were also changing the image of old age—from a social problem of the sick, poor, and senile, whose solutions depend on public policy—to the emerging reality of an active aging population having vigor, resources, and time to apply both.

Responding to the public’s growing awareness, the media, public policy, and some institutions began to recognize the impending implications. Time and Newsweek devoted cover stories to the “Greying of America”. Local radio stations began replacing their rock-and-roll formats with music targeted to more mature tastes. The Collegiate Forum (Dow Jones & Co., Inc.) devoted its Fall 1982 issue entirely to articles on the aging work force. A National Research Conference on Technology and Aging, and the Office of Technological Assessment of the House of Representatives, initiated a major examination of the impact of science and technology on older Americans”.

In 1985, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Administration on Aging, the Farmer’s Home Administration, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development signed an agreement to improve building, landscape, product and graphic design for older Americans, which included new research applications for old age that recognized the potential for making products easier to use by the elderly, and therefore more appealing and profitable.

In 1987, recognizing the implications of population aging, Syracuse University’s Department of Design, All-University Gerontology Center, and Center for Instructional Development initiated and collaborated on an interdisciplinary project, Industrial Design Accommodations: A Transgenerational Perspective. The year-long project, supported by a Federal grant, joined the knowledge base of gerontology with the professional practice of industrial design.

The project defined “the three aspects of aging as physiological, sociological, and psychological; and divided the designer’s responsibility into aesthetic, technological, and humanistic concerns”.
The strong interrelationship between the physiological aspects of aging and industrial design’s humanistic aspects established the project’s instructional focus and categorized the physiological aspects of aging as the sensory and physical factors of vision, hearing, touch, and movement. This interrelationship was translated into a series of reference tables, which related specific physical and sensory factors of aging, and were included in the resulting set of design guidelines to:

The project produced and published two instructional manuals—one for instructors and one for design professionals—each containing a detailed set of “design guidelines and strategies for designing transgenerationalproducts”. Under terms of the grant, instructional manuals were distributed to all academic programs of industrial design recognized by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Continuing to emerge as a growing strategy for developing products, services and environments that accommodate people of all ages and abilities, “transgenerational design has been adopted by major corporations, like Intel, Microsoft and Kodak” who are “looking at product development the same way as designing products for people with visual, hearing and physical impairments,” so that people of any age can use them.

Discussions between designers and marketers are indicating that successful transgenerational design “requires the right balance of upfront research work, solid human factors analysis, extensive design exploration, testing and a lot of thought to get it right”, and that “transgenerational design is applicable to any consumer products company—from appliance manufacturers to electronics companies, furniture makers, kitchen and bath and mainstream consumer products companies”.

Design Research Society (DRS)

The Design Research Society (DRS), founded in the United Kingdom in 1966, is an international society for developing and supporting the interests of the design research community. The primary purpose of the DRS, as embodied in its first statement of rules, is to promote ‘the study of and research into the process of designing in all its many fields’. This established the intention of being an interdisciplinary learned society, taking a scholarly and domain independent view of the process of designing. Membership is open to anyone interested in design research, and members with established experience and a strong background in design research may apply to be elected as a DRS Fellow.

The origins of the Society lay in the first conference on design methods, (full title “The Conference on Systematic and Intuitive Methods in Engineering, Industrial Design, Architecture and Communications”) held at Imperial College in London in 1962, which enabled a core of people to be identified who shared interests in new approaches to the process of designing.

Initially, the DRS promoted its aims through a series of one-day conferences and the publication of a quarterly newsletter to members. However, within a few years, unsuccessful attempts to establish a published journal and fruitless internal debate about the Society’s goals led to inactivity. The Society was revived by its first major international conference, on design participation, held in Manchester in 1971. At that conference a meeting of DRS members led to a call for a special general meeting of the Society, and to changes of officers and council members. Subsequently, a series of conferences was held through the 1970s and 80s: in London (1973), Portsmouth (1976, 1980), Istanbul (1978), and Bath (1984).

In the mid-1970s DRS also collaborated with the Design Methods Group, based in the USA, including publishing a joint journal, Design Research and Methods.

By the late 1970s there was enough enthusiasm, and evidence of design research activity around the world, for the DRS to approach IPC Press (now Elsevier Science) with a successful proposal for its own journal. Design Studies, the international journal for design research, was launched in 1979. A monthly internet news bulletin DesignResearchNews was started in 1998 and has over 9000 subscribers. Between 2006 and 2009 the Society also published a quarterly newsletter, Design Research Quarterly.

A new biennial series of DRS conferences began in 2002 with the ‘Common Ground’ conference in London. Subsequent ones have been held at venues around the world, with a variety of themes. See the Table below. In 2005 DRS was one of the founding members of the International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR), which also holds biennial, international conferences.

Special Interest Groups provide a forum for specific areas of research which are of interest to the Design Research Community and its members. SIGs organise events and discussion in a number of ways to facilitate the exchange and development of best practice in the field. Each SIG is organised by a convenor who is supported by an organising group and the SIG members. DRS members are invited to join any Special Interest Group to contribute actively to research in the subject area of their chosen group.

EKSIG is concerned with the understanding and role of knowledge in research and professional practice in design in order to clarify fundamental principles and practices of using design practice within research both with regard to research regulations and requirements, and research methodology.

The main aims of EKSIG are:

EKSIG runs a biennial conference series, special strands at the DRS and IASDR conferences. It also runs a discussion list, which is used for announcements and debate about the core issues of knowledge and methodology in research and practice in the creative disciplines.

All papers selected for presentation at the conference are published in the conference proceedings: an abstract booklet with a CD or USB of the full papers and post-conference online publication, the preferred format of the DRS. Selected papers from each conference have been published in an appropriate journal as a special issue: Journal of Visual Arts Practice in 2007, Journal of Research Practice in 2010, Journal of Art and Design Education in Higher Education in 2012, Journal of Art and Design Education in Higher Education and in 2015, Journal of Research Practice .

The SIG focuses on bringing together designers, design researchers, landscape architects and others who aim to improve personal and societal wellbeing through design.

This SIG on design pedagogy aims to bring together design researchers, teachers and practitioners, and others responsible for the delivery of design education, to clarify and develop the role of design research in providing the theoretical underpinning for design education.
The DRS Design Pedagogy Special Interest Group is bringing together other research which is directed to similar ends. Design research is not an irrelevant activity living in its own little ghetto, but rather it provides the basis for the academic core of design teaching and pedagogic innovation. By that means through the provision of the next generation of designers it links into design practice.
The DRS PedSIG runs special streams at DRS biannual conferences. It also organised symposia which were hosted by the Coventry University on 27 March 2009 and 28 January 2011.

In 2010, the DRS PedSIG and CUMULUS Association have join forces to develop a bi-annual international research events. The 1st International Symposium for Design Education Researchers in collaboration with: CUMULUS Association; Design Research Society (DRS); five other international universities (which included: Aalto University, L’Ecole de Design Nantes Atlantique, Coventry University, L’Ecole Parsons a Paris, and Politecnico di Milano); the Lieu de Design, Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris and AVA Publishing. The symposium was held in a prestigious location of fr:Bourse de commerce de Paris in May 2011. A special issue of Collection, a research journal, has been produced featuring a selection of contributions. The 2nd International Conference for Design Research Educators, DRS//CUMULUS 2013, was hosted by the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.

The OPENSiG was originally launched in 2007 under the name ‘Emotion, Experience and Interaction’. A special strand at the DRS conference 2008 and two successful workshops at Sheffield Hallam University (2007) and Nottingham Trent University (2010) served to define the group’s interest in broad questions about human-object interactions – focusing on Objects and engaging with social Practices, which involve Experiences with/ of objects in Networks of relationship.

The Inclusive Design Research Special Interest Group (InclusiveSIG) aims to provide an international platform for researchers, design practitioners, design educators and students, and the general public to exchange knowledge about inclusive design and to empower wider participation in design.

Design Research Society’s Design Innovation Management Special Interest Group (DIMSIG) in collaboration with the Design Society’s Design Management Special Interest Group (DeMSIG) formed a cross-societal working party named the Design Management Academy (DMA). The Design School at Hong Kong Polytechnic hosted the first Design Management Academy international conference in June 2017.

Design

A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process, or the result of that plan or specification in the form of a prototype, product or process. The verb to design expresses the process of developing a design. In some cases, the direct construction of an object without an explicit prior plan (such as in craftwork, some engineering, coding, and graphic design) may also be considered to be a design activity. The design usually has to satisfy certain goals and constraints, may take into account aesthetic, functional, economic, or socio-political considerations, and is expected to interact with a certain environment. Major examples of designs include architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams, and sewing patterns.

The person who produces a design is called a designer, which is a term generally used for people who work professionally in one of the various design areas—usually specifying which area is being dealt with (such as a textile designer, fashion designer, product designer, concept designer, web designer (website designer) or interior designer), but also others such as architects and engineers. A designer’s sequence of activities is called a design process, possibly using design methods. The process of creating a design can be brief (a quick sketch) or lengthy and complicated, involving considerable research, negotiation, reflection, modeling, interactive adjustment and re-design.

Substantial disagreement exists concerning how designers in many fields, whether amateur or professional, alone or in teams, produce designs. Kees Dorst and Judith Dijkhuis, both designers themselves, argued that “there are many ways of describing design processes” and discussed “two basic and fundamentally different ways”, both of which have several names. The prevailing view has been called “the rational model”, “technical problem solving” and “the reason-centric perspective”. The alternative view has been called “reflection-in-action”, “co-evolution”, and “the action-centric perspective”.

The rational model was independently developed by Herbert A. Simon, an American scientist, and Gerhard Pahl and Wolfgang Beitz, two German engineering design theorists. It posits that:

The rational model is based on a rationalist philosophy and underlies the waterfall model, systems development life cycle, and much of the engineering design literature. According to the rationalist philosophy, design is informed by research and knowledge in a predictable and controlled manner.

Typical stages consistent with the rational model include the following:

Each stage has many associated best practices.

The rational model has been widely criticized on two primary grounds:

The action-centric perspective is a label given to a collection of interrelated concepts, which are antithetical to the rational model. It posits that:

The action-centric perspective is based on an empiricist philosophy and broadly consistent with the agile approach and amethodical development. Substantial empirical evidence supports the veracity of this perspective in describing the actions of real designers. Like the rational model, the action-centric model sees design as informed by research and knowledge. However, research and knowledge are brought into the design process through the judgment and common sense of designers – by designers “thinking on their feet” – more than through the predictable and controlled process stipulated by the rational model.

At least two views of design activity are consistent with the action-centric perspective. Both involve three basic activities.

In the reflection-in-action paradigm, designers alternate between “framing”, “making moves”, and “evaluating moves”. “Framing” refers to conceptualizing the problem, i.e., defining goals and objectives. A “move” is a tentative design decision. The evaluation process may lead to further moves in the design.

In the sensemaking-coevolution-implementation framework, designers alternate between its three titular activities. Sensemaking includes both framing and evaluating moves. Implementation is the process of constructing the design object. Coevolution is “the process where the design agent simultaneously refines its mental picture of the design object based on its mental picture of the context, and vice versa”.

The concept of the design cycle is understood as a circular time structure, which may start with the thinking of an idea, then expressing it by the use of visual or verbal means of communication (design tools), the sharing and perceiving of the expressed idea, and finally starting a new cycle with the critical rethinking of the perceived idea. Anderson points out that this concept emphasizes the importance of the means of expression, which at the same time are means of perception of any design ideas.

Philosophy of design is the study of definitions of design, and the assumptions, foundations, and implications of design. There are also countless informal or personal philosophies for guiding design as design values and its accompanying aspects within modern design vary, both between different schools of thought[which?] and among practicing designers. Design philosophies are usually for determining design goals.

In this sense, design philosophies are fundamental guiding principles that dictate how a designer approaches his/her practice. Reflections on material culture and environmental concerns (sustainable design) can guide a design philosophy. An example is the First Things First manifesto which was launched within the graphic design community and states “We propose a reversal of priorities in favor of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication – a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it must expand. Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged by other perspectives expressed, in part, through the visual languages and resources of design.”

A design approach is a general philosophy that may or may not include a guide for specific methods. Some are to guide the overall goal of the design. Other approaches are to guide the tendencies of the designer.

Some of these approaches include:

Design can broadly be applied to various fields such as art, engineering and production.

Today, the term design is generally used for what was formerly called the applied arts. The new term, for a very old thing, was perhaps initiated by Raymond Loewy and teachings at the Bauhaus and Ulm School of Design (HfG Ulm) in Germany during the 20th century.

The boundaries between art and design are blurred, largely due to a range of applications both for the term ‘art’ and the term ‘design’. Applied arts can include industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, and the decorative arts which traditionally includes craft objects. In graphic arts (2D image making that ranges from photography to illustration), the distinction is often made between fine art and commercial art, based on the context within which the work is produced and how it is traded.

To a degree, some methods for creating work, such as employing intuition, are shared across the disciplines within the applied arts and fine art. Mark Getlein, writer, suggests the principles of design are “almost instinctive”, “built-in”, “natural”, and part of “our sense of ‘rightness’.” However, the intended application and context of the resulting works will vary greatly.

In engineering, design is a component of the engineering process. Many overlapping methods and processes can be seen when comparing Product design, Industrial design and Engineering. The American Heritage Dictionary defines design as: “To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent,” and “To formulate a plan”, and defines engineering as: “The application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.”. Both are forms of problem-solving with a defined distinction being the application of “scientific and mathematical principles”. The increasingly scientific focus of engineering in practice, however, has raised the importance of more new “human-centered” fields of design. How much science is applied in a design is a question of what is considered “science”. Along with the question of what is considered science, there is social science versus natural science. Scientists at Xerox PARC made the distinction of design versus engineering at “moving minds” versus “moving atoms” (probably in contradiction to the origin of term “engineering – engineer” from Latin “in genio” in meaning of a “genius” what assumes existence of a “mind” not of an “atom”).

The relationship between design and production is one of planning and executing. In theory, the plan should anticipate and compensate for potential problems in the execution process. Design involves problem-solving and creativity. In contrast, production involves a routine or pre-planned process. A design may also be a mere plan that does not include a production or engineering processes although a working knowledge of such processes is usually expected of designers. In some cases, it may be unnecessary or impractical to expect a designer with a broad multidisciplinary knowledge required for such designs to also have a detailed specialized knowledge of how to produce the product.

Design and production are intertwined in many creative professional careers, meaning problem-solving is part of execution and the reverse. As the cost of rearrangement increases, the need for separating design from production increases as well. For example, a high-budget project, such as a skyscraper, requires separating (design) architecture from (production) construction. A Low-budget project, such as a locally printed office party invitation flyer, can be rearranged and printed dozens of times at the low cost of a few sheets of paper, a few drops of ink, and less than one hour’s pay of a desktop publisher.

This is not to say that production never involves problem-solving or creativity, nor that design always involves creativity. Designs are rarely perfect and are sometimes repetitive. The imperfection of a design may task a production position (e.g. production artist, construction worker) with utilizing creativity or problem-solving skills to compensate for what was overlooked in the design process. Likewise, a design may be a simple repetition (copy) of a known preexisting solution, requiring minimal, if any, creativity or problem-solving skills from the designer.

“Process design” (in contrast to “design process” mentioned above) is to the planning of routine steps of a process aside from the expected result. Processes (in general) are treated as a product of design, not the method of design. The term originated with the industrial designing of chemical processes. With the increasing complexities of the information age, consultants and executives have found the term useful to describe the design of business processes as well as manufacturing processes.