Chapter 15. New Responsibilities of the Design Discipline: A Critical Counterweight to the Coming Technologies?


Critiquing Emerging Technology

Whether it is 3D printing, wearable computing, or biotechnology and nanotechnology, the list of emerging technologies is long and exciting, the potential impact on our lives even more so.

Designers help make new technologies easy to use and find new applications for them. Increasingly, however, designers should be the ones questioning the promises and highlighting concerns about the side effects of what is on the horizon. Currently, this is not widely understood as design, so this chapter differentiates between designers and design, and argues why this new approach should indeed be considered part of design, especially when it comes to emerging technologies.

Design Is About People

In 1911, architect Walter Gropius was commissioned to design a new building for a factory in Germany. Gropius went on to not only design an aesthetically pleasing exterior for the building, but improved the industrial working conditions by also considering the interior of the building and the workers themselves. For example, his then revolutionary use of glass panels made the factory a bright and transparent working environment. To Gropius, design had a social and ethical responsibility as well as an aesthetic one. His belief was that design should bring social good.

The view that art should meet social needs became one of the central ideas of the influential ...

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