From product design to relational design

Adding ‘jeong’ to the metadesigner’s vocabulary

Authored by: John Wood

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138910171
eBook ISBN: 9781315693309
Adobe ISBN:


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As design is a formative part of our environmentally destructive economy, it will need reform. Some alternatives exist in our ‘metadesign’ framework – a radical, cross-specialist, comprehensive and integrated way of co-managing complex systems. Here, we can learn from ecosystems, as they are exemplars of complexity management. For example, in the living world, ‘sexual recombination’ weaves new opportunities from existing data and materials. Thus, instead of focusing on the design of individual products, metadesigners might also work towards a multiplicity of innovations and their synergies. Ultimately, this represents a quest to change whole paradigms. This is an ambitious task that would include (re)inventing grammar and vocabulary to invoke new possibilities. In the traditional paradigm of observational drawing, the designer is taught to gaze at, and reflect upon, the (singular) product, thus objectifying it as a pure ‘form’ that is detached from context. Within the paradigm of product design, the manufacturer would normally have expected to extract new materials in order to replicate new forms, products or devices. A disadvantage of this individuated, object-centred tradition is that it tends to mask unfamiliar synergies that reside in the relations among people and things. This chapter discusses the Korean word ‘jeong’ as the basis for a more relational framework of practice for metadesigners.

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