Current smart products are designed with values of convenience and efficiency in mind. These products are designed as though the home is a checklist of tasks that need to be completed. This perspective completely devalues the complexities we may experience in the home. Such practices are also embedded in the industrial design practice, where the focus is on optimising experiences to be seamless.
Through my research findings, it was very clear that a home is a place where we experience and share many meaningful values. Thus a clear mismatch in product and user values. This project looks into challenging the convenience and efficiency model that connected technologies are designed with by looking for new vocabularies to design products that are better supportive of life at home. Using this value-based thinking as the starting point and inspiration of Shannon Vallor’s work “Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting”, I establish the new vocabularies to be virtues, a way to design connected technologies for the home that supports reflection and growth. This project is an exploration and an attempt to design connected technologies with a virtue-based approach.
During this project, I relied a lot on literature to frame the space of investigation. But to get a full picture of what is happening I engaged in ethnographic research with people of different home setups, understand how they live and what's going on in these intimate environments. At the same time, I also was in touch with various technology enthusiasts, industry professionals, philosophers etc. I created many different provocative probes as initial ideas and ways to uncover new territories and engage participants through my process. This enabled me to find relevant themes that I would continue exploring.
In order to challenge this convenience and efficiency perspective needed to provide a new vision. A vision is a future aspiration of what things can be like and what we might look forward to. For people to desire something that's not a magic show or that's not happening with ease, they need to see what that can look like. As this project is a speculation of an alternative vision, a large part of my process resulted in creative narratives and responding to them with various ideas that would tell a coherent story and showcase the value of designing with virtues.
A Virtuous Vision for the Home
What if connected experiences were designed to enable people to live virtuously, where technology is focused on creating reflective individuals to make virtuous choices together. This vision aims towards growing as a society that strives to live morally and thrives by becoming better versions of themselves.
“Vertu” is a fictitious company that makes products designed to promote virtuous living. Their main goal with their products is to enable their customers to be reflective and make virtuous choices for themselves and society. They want to make products that are focused on making people better versions of themselves. To respond to society’s growing need, Vertu launched a series of the first few virtue-based products.
“Clima” is a product experience that is designed to enable users to make food choices that support them in being responsible to and for the climate.
“Meny” A food preparation experience designed not to make the best meal but designed to achieve that best meal together. Their focus was to make the mundane enjoyable and enable families to share responsibilities to make meals collaboratively.
‘Sova’ is an AI-based reflective bedtime experience fostering discipline by creating a desire to take better care of ourselves.
What I think and have gathered as valuable about my thesis project is that as designers maybe our goals can expand from problem-solving to creating products that allow for reflection and growth. The virtue approach allows for designers like me to think more holistically about what virtues our products consist of and evaluate if that solution caters to a desirable society that we want for ourselves.