Industrial designers are increasingly ‘confronted’ with the task of developing wearables – which essentially means they have to design and fit hardware products to the human body. Their knowledge of usability and their ability to implement interfaces and technology into products has given them an understanding of the concomitant design tasks – or so it seems.
But garments and accessories, or really any artefact which enters our personal sphere and life to a similar degree as current wearable tech does, have a huge impact on our cultural and social, if not even political structures.
In other words, functionality is a secondary aspect when designing for the human body and there is a very poignant reason for fashion to be only partly comparable to other design disciplines. Instead, it builds on storytelling as our garments contribute to a subtile system of communication. Hence, industrial designers actually have to consider three major aspects for their task: the most classical one of usability, the fairly technical and clearly underestimated task of wearability, and lastly but most often overlooked – the commentary level and social territories which they might enter whilst doing so.
Hence I was intrigued when Fiona Raby, course leader of ID 2 in Vienna, asked me to deliver a workshop on the topic of this is NOT a wearable. Building on some earlier workshops and personal work which I had done, I decided to confront the students with designing a society rather then an object.
Starting from a basic story about a future when everyday life would focus on using our bodies for benefit and pleasure, phantasms and scenarios were developed.
We travelled wide and far into the world of science fiction and back within three days before we finally gathered for an evening of performance, film and artefacts of future political and social models. Each group had developed a skript and products which told of rites, cults and behaviors that might arise out of a hyper body focussed society.