Although a nice discussion
could be had about what interaction design for sustainability
might actually entail, there is
more to it than just making the
products themselves more meaningful, effective, and sustainable.
The bigger issue is the context for which these products
are conceived and where they
will be consumed. Take for
example the context of luxury,
which is not often known to pay
much regard to sustainability.
What could design develop in
terms of an ecological and sustainable approach to luxury?
This requires a new sustainable consumption model, which
goes far beyond the boundaries
of our profession and practice.
But as designers we can inspire
and guide toward such a model,
and help people better manage
a sustainable lifestyle.
tion. It is only adopted when it
adheres to the dominant innovation model: by promising immediate return on the investments
made. In other words, people-centered design matters not
because it is centered on people
but because it makes money.
There are other paradigms.
Some advocate applying the
model of biological evolution to
The main principles of evolution could be used to explain
how design ideas mutate, are
selected, migrate, and drift,
finding their natural way from
the observation of people’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional patterns to the design of concepts and prototypes, to their
production cycle and back to
people, in a sort of continuum.
It could even provide guidance and vision for the construction of practitioner toolkits
of the future, which would create a much greater responsibility for the designer.
How to develop a new model
for immersive learning? It is
currently being explored all
over the world. The Finnish
government will soon merge
the three top institutions—the
business, design and engineering universities, each with their
100-plus years of history—into
a new innovation university with an English-language
program, which is all about
But personally, I expect most
innovation to come from unusual places: the slums of Lagos,
the villages of India, the fisher-men in Vietnam. We just have
to understand it as learning.
The Evolution Theory of
The dominant model of technological innovation lies on a
simple core tenet—it must be
market-proof. Investments and
research are always directed to
where the hopes for profit lie.
Most designers are at the complete service of this dominant
People-centered design is not
based on an economic model.
Instead, it emphasizes our
human limitations (such as
perceptual-motor constraints and
the bounded rationality of our
cognitive system), our behaviors
(our cultural constraints and living contexts), and our aspirations
to change (our desire to be emotionally involved in what we do
and be main actors in our future).
But people-centered design is
rarely a driving factor of innova-
And Something More…
There surely is going to be
“something more.” As our world
is changing, and time goes by,
other topics will rise up. But for
now I have my hands full trying
to delve into what I just introduced. If you feel you can lend
me a hand in this quest, please
do let me know.
A World of Pervasive Learning
With pervasive technology,
learning itself is becoming
pervasive. Pervasive learning
also means learning by children, the illiterate, the elderly,
migrants—in short, by about
every category and in every
context currently not affected
by institutional learning.
Learning therefore needs to
become hands-on, experience-based, multi-disciplinary, physical, and enabled by immersive
This intuitive, direct learning
is radically different from institutional learning. We all have
some good examples of this, but
the educational, pedagogical
approach is lacking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Vanderbeeken is one
of four partners of
Experientia, an international
consultancy based in Italy,
with particular responsibilities for strategic
communications. He has worked in
Belgium (his home country), the U.S.,
Denmark, and Italy for both profit and nonprofit organizations, and studied visual and
cognitive psychology at Columbia
University. Vanderbeeken is the author of
Experientia’s successful experience design
blog Putting People First; he also writes for
other publications such as Core77.
March + April 2009
© 2009 ACM 1072-5220/09/0300 $5.00