Designing Growth, Growing Design Interdependencies of Drafts and Technical Innovations in the Light of Contemporary Evolution Theories
Technical development and adaptation processes are undergoing a radical change of nature. The composition and prerequisites of technical innovations, such as digitization and artificial intelligence, evolve exponentially and at the same time are able to increasingly permeate all areas of human life. The processes' dynamics can lead to unforeseeable breaks in previous lines of development and thus cause unpredictable disruptions. The research project Designing Growth, Growing Design deals with the parallels between these technical development processes and the tasks of designing such innovative developments. The general goal is to show the connections and dependencies between design and growth, between draft and technical innovation. In particular, the aim is to find and make credible a superordinate concept for such cross-connections between technology and design. With the help of such a concept, design science could be extended by a theory and methodology of growth aspects. The theory of evolution in its appropriate variants will be central to such considerations. The starting point will be reflections on our current innovation processes, initially from the technical side. In What technology wants, Kevin Kelly proposes the thesis that machines and their technology undergo an evolutionary development, similar in structure to the evolution of natural species and genera. Subsequently, the question arises from the design side, how such an evolution in technology affects the design of the associated products. Does the development of forms and functions, approaches and appearances depend on the hardware of technological achievements far more than one would expect from external aspects? Or, conversely, are aesthetic aspects also decisive for the further development of technology? On closer inspection, it soon becomes clear that a question posed in this way still falls short in essential respects. Simply because in advanced cultures, it is no longer just a question of the mere ›survival‹ of products, in other words how they succeed in the market. In the 1970s, it was believed that design could be understood as an aid to survival in the sense of beautification, technology as performance that could make an impression.
Today, the focus is more on how products appear embedded in life contexts and fundamentally shape our everyday lives. In the last respect, it is then a question of whether products are capable of actually making our lives better, in a comprehensive and sophisticated sense. Accordingly, the focus of estimation is on the practical use and its successful and practice-extending impact. As a result of such a framework, it is reasonable to assume that design and technology are much more closely connected than previously thought. Both developments not only seem to run parallel to each other, but, in the words of Niklas Luhmann, they seem to be structurally interconnected. The question then arises whether such a close connection between the different lines of evolution might not lead to more, such as interactions in the respective methodology – this alone is not a minor aspect, since in some surroundings the belief that design is essentially untechnical and that technology in itself is neutral to questions of design has so far persisted. Last but not least, it is also worth asking whether an increase in understanding of the concept of evolution itself is in prospect: when it becomes clear how, in the advanced 21st century, the process of change and adaptation must be thought about in a completely new intensity and on a broader scope in terms of civilization. A moment that goes the whole hog? In other words: Evolution reloaded in design.
Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann
Prof. Frank Georg Zebner