To aim at the affectively sustainable is to look for the hidden obvious in an object.
Most designers share at least one vision: to contribute to real development rather than to design merely another. My vision as a researcher is to provide designers with new or newly combined knowledge, which have a chance to facilitate their mission. Knowledge, in my meaning of the term, is also consciousness: to put in doubt and rethink as also to look beyond the rational.
Irrational problems have been the subject of much analysis. In 1973 Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber wrote a landmark article were they discussed that there are a set of problems [of social policy] that cannot be resolved with traditional analytical approaches. They labelled such problems "Wicked Problems".1 Are irrational problems in general "wicked"? According to Rittel and Webber there are no solutions to these problems ‘in the sense of definitive and objective answers’ (p. 155). Are irrational problems unsolvable?
In my logic irrational problems are neither "wicked" nor unsolvable. However, to solve them a new way of thinking, a change of direction of thought, is necessary and also a prerequisite for development, which goes further than innovation. I refuse to call this type of thinking ‘a new rationality’. This expression, though often heard, risks in fact conserving rationality as the one way to think: to replace one kind of rationality with another. Given a ‘softened’ name, this reasoning can be referred to as something which makes a difference when in fact it does not.
Affective sustainability might immediately appear to have connotations of something irrational. Many measures in the direction of sustainable development are halted or rendered difficult due to what are considered to be irrational causes (wicked?). Knowing that many, if not the majority, of the choices we make through life are irrational, based on feelings, the struggle for that which is aimed at sustainability becomes evident as does the term itself.2 Sustaining for the sake of it has no sense.
I therefore want to continue my research on affective sustainability, but in an applied way. Existing objects can be redefined on the basis of time, tradition, aesthetic and perception. In this context, intuition must increasingly be valued as a competence, not merely a spiritual thought.3
Rationality is one important tool in designing but not the only tool. It has given us the simple object, but not simplification. Simplification is not solely a measure concerning physicality. It takes into consideration the affect an object evokes: this must be positive, easily de-coded and stored.
My vision is to help designers look for the obvious when designing. It might be immediately hidden, but when it is found, it shows the way to simplification.
1Rittel H. & Webber M. (1973) Dilemmas in General Theory of Planning. Policy Sciences. No 4, pp 155-169.
2Damasio, A. (1994) Descartes’ Error. Revised ed. London: Vintage
3Bastick, T (2003) Intuition. Evaluating the Construct and its Impact on Creative Thinking. Kingston, Jamaica: Stoneman & Lang.