Transdisciplinary Design

shift of perception about design

Posted on November 5, 2013 | posted by:


John Thackara raises question in his book, In the bubble, “Should we continue to design only to make things faster?” It seems to me that design and technology make life easier and more comfortable, but it doesn’t necessarily make life better.

Transportation got faster then years before but we spend same amount of time or more time to commute because we start to stay further. I think as design makes things faster, easier and cheaper we tend to use more time, effort, and money. During my undergraduate years, I went to a school that is located 2 hours away from home by car. I lived on campus in the dormitory for the first year so it took me less than 10minitues to get to the school. Then KTX, which is fast train system in Korea, started to run so I started to commute from home in my second year. It took me 50minutes to get to school, which is way faster than driving a car than when I lived on campus, but I spent a longer time commuting. This is not a unique situation. Everyday 400,000 workers commute to New York from New Jersey[1]. If you assume each commute is 30 minutes, and total time people send commuting per day it would be 12,000,000 minutes, 200,000 hours, 8,333 day, 22.8 years. It is huge amount of time we are spending every day for commute.

When I think on a bigger scale, I think about traveling overseas. As airplanes work faster and cheaper than before, it becomes more comfortable, safe, efficient to travel around than 50 years ago. As it gets easier people also start to travel more for business.  One of my friends is a researcher at the national energy lab in Korea and he goes on a business trip every month to different countries. And many people go overseas for their vacation too.

When I lived in Sweden, my mom sent 6 big boxes from Korea. I was planning to live there for a long time since I was already working in Sweden. The cost of shipment from Korea to other countries is affordable than the other way around. And postal service in Korea is very easy to use. I remember by the time I left from Sweden, my initial 6 boxes had been expanded to 10 boxes of stuff. The cost of sending them to Korea was way more expensive, and I had to bring boxes to the office rather than asking the post office to come and pick them up at my place as post office in Korea does. If the cost of logistics in Korea had been more expensive to send the boxes my mom wouldn’t had sent them. But since it was affordable and easy for her to send she did it for me.

My understanding of design has been to make things to make people have a better life in terms of make things faster and more comfortable. However, these days I start to question what is better life? What do I want to design for the better life? I hope to develop my answer to these questions throughout my journey as a designer.