Design elasticity and less stuff

I enjoy creative descriptions of how the mind copes with change, recently writing, for example, about the  opposable business mind. And even more recently, I've linked a couple of times to an installation called Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art.

If you believe that designers are merely glorified decorators, Paola Antonelli would like a moment of your time to challenge that assumption. In a recent SEED essay, she argues that design and designers, for example, play a large role in simply making change manageable:

Adaptability is an ancestral distinction of human intelligence, but today's instant variations in rhythm call for something stronger: elasticity. The by-product of adaptability and acceleration, elasticity means being able to negotiate change and innovation without letting them interfere excessively with one's own rhythms and goals. It means being able to embrace progress, understanding how to make it our own. One of design's most fundamental tasks is to help people deal with change (my emphasis, above).

She further links elasticity to the need to bring the monuments produced by scientific discovery to a human scale, and how science and design are engaged in unprecedented cooperation.

If you're at all interested in how modern fast-paced and beery-eyed change can be made more understandable - and how it is being made more understandable - I encourage you to read the essay.

Much to my delight, Antonelli also suggests that coping-with-change can play a role in a kind of conservation:

[E]ven as technology offers us more and more options, many agree that we in fact require fewer—not more—objects in our lives.

Here, here. That's a design challenge I can embrace.