Is it time to re-examine human-centered design?

Is it time to re-examine our anthropocentrism in design, asks ASU design professor Prasad Boradkar and to extend design’s locus of action towards biocentrism.

“Clearly, the things we design with such diligent research and utmost care for people do not impact only people. The consequences of design activity (human-centered or otherwise) reach far beyond humans. We are, after all, one of several million species who live on this planet. Why then, should our design be so anthropocentric? Can we not design products and services keeping in mind not only people, but also other species and entire ecosystems? Can we not envision the potential impacts of all that we design not only on people, but on all inhabitants of our biosphere? Is it time to re-examine our anthropocentrism in design?

Perhaps we need a new paradigm that distinctly recognizes and explicitly extends design’s locus of action to move beyond anthropocentrism and towards biocentrism. This, in no way suggests that we reject human-centered design; instead, it recommends that we re-imagine our goals and adopt new methods that acknowledge the other millions of species who are our neighbors.”

Prasad Boradkar is Professor in Industrial Design at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe. He is the Director of InnovationSpace, a transdisciplinary laboratory at ASU where faculty and students from design, business, sustainability and engineering partner with corporations to develop human-centered product concepts that hold societal benefit and minimize impacts on the environment. He also serves as the Co-Director of the Biomimicry Center at ASU, an organization dedicated to the exploration of biologically-inspired solutions to problems of sustainability. Prasad is the author of Designing Things: A Critical Introduction to the Culture of Objects (Berg 2010). He is the co-editor of Encountering Things, an anthology of essays on the cultural meaning of objects, and is currently working on a book on Indian design.

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