Designing for Meaningfulness

Designing for Meaningfulness

Vanessa believes that the future of technology is to empower humanity. It should help us to identify and reach our life goals, to deepen our relationships with others and with ourselves, and it should help us to understand who we have been, who we are and who we want to be. She calls this Designing for Meaningfulness and wrote a PhD about it in collaboration with Danish companies developing new devices.

Designing for Meaningfulness

It's about identity and values

Dr. Vanessa Julia Carpenter completed a PhD on Designing for Meaningfulness in Future Technologies at Aalborg, University Copenhagen whilst working in industry with design and technology agencies to expand and define this area. Her PhD came after 10 years working in industry, developing new smart products and being increasingly more worried about the trends in product development.

Designing for Meaningfulness (DFM™) has been used by design companies, companies developing new smart products and medical devices, and has been presented in over 50 workshops, talks and seminars.

The research includes both a value based investigation of the Mechanics (value based parameters) and Manifestations (physical qualities) of Meaningfulness. These are starting points for ideating and evaluating products or services in terms of designing for three scenarios:

  1. People-to-people connections
  2. A person to their sense-of-self
  3. People-to-time
Designing for Meaningfulness

From Vanessa's PhD: 

"Coming from a world of art installations where playing with water can result in a fire explosion, where touching dancers results in sound, light and of course, fire, where industrial one ton ABB robots dance in response to a human’s movement, I was saddened that companies were not able to imagine technology in the same way as I did, well and truly ‘outside the box’ and concurrently, that their ambition to create smart products which impacted people’s lives in a positive way was not necessarily being met. I designed and facilitated many ideation workshops and tangible early prototype building sessions, but the problem persisted: At the end of the day, the companies wanted something they had seen before, a wrist-worn screen, an iPad on an electric bike, a pillbox that blinked and beeped. They wanted something safe and predictable, something that would both help people and be successful from a business perspective. All of which was fair enough from their perspective. However, from my perspective, the problem was clear - what we are bringing into this world is more and more silicon encased gadgets, throw-away technologies designed for obsolescence, which are not thoroughly thought-through, tested, truly made for the person who has to live with it at the end of the day."

Download the DFM™ Checklist

Examine your company, products and services from a lens of meaningfulness.

Examples of Designing for Meaningfulness

Vanessa's company, Kintsugi Design, specializes in designing new technologies, strategies, and futures with meaningfulness at the core of their practice. The below examples open on Kintsugi Design's website.

Bring DFM to your audience or team

Vanessa speaks at conferences, on podcasts, as part of panel debates, and in digital sessions about Designing for Meaningfulness.