Jonas Rehn and Stephan Ott had a really engaging conversation for almost an hour and a half on the tasks of design and the perspectives of design research, not to mention “how we talk about design” and what “the design discourse today” is. The starting point is the question: Quo vadis design? Where is the journey going? Where should it go for design? Ott claims that the complexity of design has been largely forgotten in recent years and that our understanding of it, outside of scientific discourse, is still underdeveloped. Ott asserts that even if we are aware of the analysis, we still fail to act upon it. And therefore, integrating perception and cognition is a key objective of design.
In episode 19 of the podcast “Healthy Design,” Rehn and Ott go into length on the complexities and understanding of design’s role. How much can bonds be created by design? What benefits can you experience by sitting “between the chairs”? In other words, how do you go about putting significant results into practise and getting them “on the road”? How can research be applied in the real world? “Wicked problems” are difficult to solve, if at all, in part because even when they are partially resolved, many unresolved issues are lost in the process. Ott claims that there are certain lessons to be gained from the history of design, which Ott believes still has a lot of untapped potential. Ott uses the example of a 1960s essay by Herbert Malecki that asks, “Product design or what does man need? The question of how information in design and through design may be appropriately transmitted and how various players can be brought together is discussed near the conclusion of the conversation, which is well worth listening to. Ott draws attention to a key distinction between informing and providing information. Ultimately, he suggests that instead of focusing on “the new chair from XY,” people examine more closely what it means for design to address, fascinate, and inform.
Stephan Ott is the director of the German Design Council’s “Institute for Design Research and Appliance” (IfDRA). He previously spent many years as editor-in-chief of the trade magazine “form.” Before starting his freelance writing, journalism, and editing career with a focus on design, Ott studied German language and literature, history, and politics, as well as theatre, film, and television studies. From 1999 to 2012, he was head of the press and public relations department at the German Design Council and was later responsible for the areas of communication strategy and conception as well as the editorial department.
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