Lotte Jacobse joins Reframing Studio: lets amaze the design world!

What do you answer people who wonder what you do for a living?

At first I would say that I am an interaction designer, after all I graduated from the DFI department, which stands for Design for Interaction. Within the Delft Technical University community people understand that ‘interaction’ covers anything that happens between the user and the product as well as what happens among other users. But beyond campus, you will find that people often narrow ‘interaction’ down to just human – computer interaction. And that is only a part of what I do or what the DFI department does.

 

In which case the problem is not just your job title but the entire DFI department needs to be rebranded?

As a matter of fact we have been discussing this last week. Even Pieter Desmet, the head of DFI, agrees that the name is not optimal but until someone coins a better verb, we will be stuck with it.

But to come back to your question on the job-title, maybe ‘Researcher & designer’ or ‘Research Designer’ is a better description for me. That may not be a very catchy title, but at least covers what I think is essential to the way I see my profession: a designer for sure, but the research part has got to be there! That is something I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do without.

 

How essential is it that there is something of a material product involved?

Products, I mean material products, is what made me want to be a designer. Along the way I realized products could be anything, but for my graduation project I deliberately looked for a company who was expecting an actual material product.

I think a material product is the perfect challenge to investigate the level of your craftsmanship. To my opinion, creating something tangible that is in line with your vision and all your research insights is a real challenge. To make sure your design remains simple, or not overly complex. That is what I wanted to accomplish in this final project, in order to become a competent designer.

Whether something should be material or immaterial is decided on pragmatic criteria. In some cases, for example if you need to reach a big audience, a digital product is off course much more advantageous.

But tangible products have a broader impact than people might think: the experience of a material product is much bigger than with a digital product. But off course there is also an environmental and a social impact…that makes optimizing a product harder and a designer should take that into account. After all, a designer is accountable for anything that is designed and introduced the the world.

 

But you will always need resources and assets to create material products. Spreading a message using mailchimp costs nothing. For the first time in history we can create using very little of any resource. Won’t that kill any products that may just as well be digitized?

Maybe, but on the other hand many people still value vinyl records in spite of them being more expensive than when they were the industry standard way to store audio. That is because apparently a record offers another experience than an MP3. Not easier, or cheaper just a superior experience. We may not need material products but we may want them.

 

You were intensively involved in the Delft Institute of Positive Design, tell us about your graduation project.

The project was a collaboration with DIOPD and Spuni, an award winning young design company located in New York, that develops products for highly educated parents and their infants. I was challenged to design an activity that contributes to the subjective-wellbeing (happiness) of both parents and children in the context of daily parenthood. The focus on introducing a new activity rather than on the product itself is typical for a positive design approach.

My research pointed out that dinner time is considered to be a moment to connect between parent and child, but in reality can be a real parental challenge of multitasking and getting children to eat enough of the healthy foods. I realized that involving young children in the process of cooking and use their need for autonomy and competence in a beneficial way, would be a promising opportunity to let them positively relate to vegetables at an early age (1,5 – 4 years old). ‘Cookid’, the product I developed, supports a daily activity of cooking together in which both explorative use and actual cooking actions are stimulated and initiates a collaborative interaction between parent and child.

The greater part of my education at the TU Delft I was thought a problem-focused design approach. During the master program I participated in the elective course Design for happiness, which showed me how an opportunity-focused approach can lead to innovative ideas.

When I first heard of positive design I was interested but also skeptical, making people happy by design…it sounded too good to be true. But now I am a believer and I think it can be done. It is a completely new area that offers many possibilities for further research.

And I can see evidence of ‘Positive Design’ outside academia: in the case of Reframing Studio, Temstem comes to my mind, a great example of how design can be used in a way that was never thought about before. Just because of a new way of thinking. Not just regarding ‘hearing voices’ as a problem, but also looking for opportunities in the interaction context.

 

Can you fastforward and imagine yourself being interviewed by someone writing your biography in 2065 investigating how your contributions changed the profession?

What I hope to be able to accomplish is to start to amaze people once again. This I feel is a neglected emotion and we need to be amazed every now and then. This is an area in desperate need of design research.

 

Lets start an ‘institute of amazing design’ and compete with prof Desmet?

I think ‘Amazing Design’ fits within Positive design. Besides, I think we all want to design for a better world, don’t we?

 

You mean all of us earthlings?

Well, maybe not all of them but in any case the people I choose around me. I hope that I will be able to give all projects I am involved in a twist towards a positive direction.

 

 

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