Monthly Archives: December 2006

The frontiers of design

I bought a “design” book yesterday for a friend of mine. Not so much of a surprise, since for the last week I have been working on an article on the relationship between IT research and design theory and methodology. The article has been a struggle, taking me out of my comfort zone and into the conflict between art and science, between the description of the present and the imagination of the future.

I bought the book because of the cover image, which is of the Nabaztag rabbit, a WiFi router in bunny form that talks, collects information, and communicates with other rabbits. I interviewed one of the designers of this rabbit this summer, and besides falling in love with the rabbit, I was also struck by the way the designer saw this “cute thing that people will buy” as an illustration of something much greater, the development of a pervasive computing network. But pervasive, interconnected networks are hard to explain. No one knows what they might be good for. But a blinking rabbit that moves its ears? Much more accessible.

Design, the creative, aethetic, imaginative, problem-solving kind, might be what makes the abstract accessible, and illustrates how we might want to communicate. As more of the messy infrastructure of communication moves into the background or into the abstract, is there some kind of expanding role for this sort of design? Maybe what we need to make sense of our world is more talking bunnies.