Northumbria University | email@example.com
Gilbert Cockton is Professor of Design Theory at Northumbria University.
His research focuses on enlarging support for design work through
balance, integration, and generosity.
Refuser (Centered Design)—
Moving On, Moving Out, Moving Up
November + December 2012
Somewhere around 2. 5 million years
ago, someone left carefully crafted
chippers, scrapers, and pounders in
an Ethiopian riverbed. The first ever
persona, Yoosa, was a skilled stone-tool maker with a deep understanding of her materials and extensive
experience of tool usage. Yoosa took
great pride in tool making and use.
No one cut meat better—not one
speck of meat left on the bone and
not one chip of bone in the meat.
Our second persona, Sentad, was
less practical, but he liked to critique
Yoosa’s performance before filching
meat she had butchered. One morning, Yoosa was chipping away at her
new, innovative quarter pounder.
“What that?” said Sentad. “Try
smaller pounder,” said Yoosa. Sentad
fixed Yoosa in the eye: “Who want
little pounder? You geek, make cool
stuff no one want. Why it good, how
it usable?” Yoosa smiled and threw
her first stone quarter pounder high
in the air. Sentad watched its small,
enchanting form soar above the rising sun and over his head, turned
to watch it fall behind him, and was
then silenced by a blow from Yoosa’s
new quadruple pounder on the back
of his head.
Yoosa’s technology probes let her
discover that with quick, imagina-
tive thinking, her new inventions
could together turn a man’s head
and leave him speechless. Yoosa
later told Sentad why she user tested
her quadruple pounder on him.
The pain in his head was penance
for his constant challenges. What
made him an authority on what
people wanted and what costs of
usage they would bear? Why was
he always demanding reasons from
her? If he was so smart, why didn’t
he know all the reasons himself?
Why couldn’t he wait and see?
Wasn’t that a gap in his imagination
rather than folly on Yoosa’s part?
Sentad saw her point and became a
toolmaker. For the next 2. 5 million
years, designers enjoyed uninter-
rupted and unchallenged private
conversations with their materials.