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A/D/O's Utopia vs Dystopia festival in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. © Amber C. Snider
A/D/O's Utopia vs Dystopia festival in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. © Amber C. Snider
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Fear And Good Design: Why Yves Béhar's New Principles Matter

Picture of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 28 February 2017
Yves Béhar, Swiss designer, founder of fuseprojects, and creator of socially-conscious products like Snoo, recently unveiled 10 principles for design in our post-truth era at A/D/O’s design festival: Utopia vs. Dystopia.
Yves Béhar at A/D/O; Utopia vs Dystopia, design festival Jan. 27, 2017 © Amber C. Snider
Yves Béhar at A/D/O; Utopia vs Dystopia, design festival Jan. 27, 2017 | © Amber C. Snider

Fear, for better or worse, seems to be a unifying factor in our current socio-political state. Design and technology are not exempt from this new consciousness either. “Design is about change,” he says. “And why does technology scare us? Because it’s about change.”

Béhar discussed new principles for ‘good design’ in a technological context while “emphasizing the need to design from a humanistic and need-based point of view, and sharing projects with utopian potential and dystopian pitfalls.” Acknowledging how design and technology work in tandem, and even bolder – that technology is design – presents the need for new philosophical principles that continue to push the design community forward, while keeping the ‘human’ factor in the forefront.

Yves Béhar at A/D/O, Jan. 27, 2017; © Amber C. Snider
Yves Béhar at A/D/O, Jan. 27, 2017; | © Amber C. Snider

“Technology fails are design problems. When technology fails, it’s because it breaks a human code, a social code.” So how do products become more personal without creating emotional dependencies and without breaking certain human codes? How can designers create new products that answer our immediate, contemporary issues, while still looking towards the future?

10 principles of ‘good design’ in a new era (according to Béhar)

1. “Good design solves an important human problem.”

This singular principle, in my mind, should be the guiding force behind every technological advancement and design enhancement. How does it help others? What human problem is it solving? Design’s utility has never been so historically necessary, and without the human factor, design falls flat. The social function of design should never be removed, from its conception to its functionality.

2. “Design is context specific (it doesn’t follow historical cliches).”

Rather than looking at historical cliches (A.I that resembles humans in films, for instance), designers must find ways to incorporate what works with what is merely assumptive -namely, they must go against stereotypes previously provided by the industry and push the boundaries, while always keeping context at the forefront.

3. “Design enhances human ability (without replacing the human).”

One of the reasons why technology is so scary to some is that it can be seen as replacing human beings. Good design should enhance human ability, but not replace the need for humans.

4. “Good design is discrete.”

Good design shouldn’t be obtrusive or even intrusive, or take over daily experience with its presence. Subtly is key.

5. “Good design works for everyone, everyday.”

Good design is socialist in this sense – it works for everyone, everyday. Good design shouldn’t be created with singular groups in mind, but for the opportunity of all. It shouldn’t be too esoteric or complicated that only a few can understand and utilize its benefits.

A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. © Amber C. Snider
A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. | © Amber C. Snider

6. “Good design is a platform that goes with needs and opportunities.”

Good design, in a sense, is a means to an end – to help others live better lives. It’s a platform that works in tandem with human needs and solves everyday problems.

7. “Good design learns and predicts human behavior.”

Whether it’s the design of a flat-pack refugee shelter or the Snoo, good design should enhance and predict human needs.

8. “Good design brings about products and services that build long term relationships (but don’t create emotional dependencies).”

Good design shouldn’t replace the human factor – while good design encourages long term relationships (think: your iPhone, Spotify or Netflix subscription, etc.) it shouldn’t act an emotional substitution for other human beings or even nature. Design and technology shouldn’t “replace” emotional experience with the world, but encourage it. Good design should be personal, but not create emotional dependencies (or be designed for emotional replacement).

9. “Good design accelerates the adoption of new ideas.”

Good design builds off the past, but doesn’t stay buried in it. With housing crises happening in urban cities all over the world, young professionals need a new design for housing. “Micro-apartments” with robotic enhancements are an example of how good design builds off past, yet accelerates the evolution for the future of housing.

10. “Good design removes complexity from life.”

Good design shouldn’t complicate life even more that it already is. In fact, it should remove the mundane stressors and complications from life in order to live as a more fully engaged human being. Design shouldn’t take away from the human experience, but enhance it.

A/D/O Utopia vs Dystopia festival © Amber C. Snider
A/D/O Utopia vs Dystopia festival | © Amber C. Snider