Designing for Wisdom

Abstract

The world is drowning in information, but starving for wisdom. As designers we cannot continue to simply design for efficiency or practicality, while ignoring this important and deeply human topic. We need to design for wisdom. But how do we tackle such a complex beast?

This thesis argues that the solution is not to design more products, but to look for different ways of designing. To express an alternative way of designing, dealing with the complexity of wisdom, an imaginary design studio called “Design for Wisdom” was created.

Mimicking the strategy of design consultancies that have successfully advanced the design practice, Design for Wisdom closely follows a set of their own design principles.

To demonstrate how to design for wisdom, the Design for Wisdom narrative was used to design three design fictions that exemplify how the design for wisdom principles might come to an expression in everyday products.

Inspiration and Method

In order to get a broad understanding of wisdom early in the process, a variety of research methods were applied, ranging from interviewing philosophers, doing workshops with backpackers and joining in meditation session at the Umeå church.

Throughout the entire process, prototyping has had a central function to counter the topic’s theory heaviness and complexity.

During the research stage, insights gained from evaluated prototypes complemented well with desk research from wisdom science.

Following that, concept ideas were externalized through explorative prototypes that took various forms, ranging from video prototypes and paper prototypes to electronic prototypes.

Finally, a set of three design fictions were carefully sharpened in order to get to the essence of designing for wisdom. In this case, the tangibility of prototypes, for example through fictional articles, helped to make the design fiction more believable.

Result

In order to express an alternative way of designing that embraces the complexity to design for wisdom, the thesis result isn’t just a single product. The result includes an imaginary design studio, a set of design for wisdom principles and three design concepts which are all captured in a design for wisdom handbook.

Evaluated with designers, the handbook provides the content into a concise, actionable and shareable format, increasing its potential impact.