Johan Redström, Heather Wiltse


Although design continuously has been expanding its scope of concern and intervention from products to processes, experience, and entire product and service ecologies, ‘things’ remain central to how
we think about design and use. But ‘things’ have changed. Contemporary materials, technologies and contexts of design and use, we argue, now result in ‘things’ that need to be understood as fluid assemblages rather than traditional objects. These often combine a surface-level simplicity of use with dynamic, sophisticated, and hidden backend complexity. In order to investigate these issues we consider a
simple design case and how it has evolved over time and through technological developments: that of pressing play to listen to music. Noting the tendencies in the ongoing evolution, with focus on the simple design element of the ‘play’ button, we suggest that traditional distinctions between design and use are breaking down. Coming to grips with the materials and ecologies of contemporary design practice thus requires the development of design theory and methodologies that allow us to articulate and bring into focus these significant new dynamics.

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