Designing something ‘almost useful’

How designing for the purpose of “interest” rather than “usefulness” expands our student’s skill sets and potential for future impact.

Our lives are dictated by the many machines that surround us. From a clock to a computer, machines are an integral part of our lives, and even more so when you work in a Fab Lab! As part of the Master in Design for Emergent Futures (MDEF) programme, our students explore the complexity and curiosity of machines from the perspective of Chind?gu (???), a Japanese approach to designing and making ingenious everyday gadgets which address problems which do not exist, resulting in an almost useful machine.

This article, a collaboration between Daphne Gerodimou, Designer & Future Learning Researcher and Cesar Rodriguez, Communications & Researcher at Fab Lab Barcelona, explains the process of designing and building Chind?gu machines in the Fab Lab by students MDEF students in the classes ‘Almost Useful Machines’ and ‘Unpacking intelligent Machines’.

A crash-course in everything ‘almost useful’

Tasking our Master in Design for Emergent Futures (MDEF) students to create something ‘almost useful’ is paradoxical. In the course, we challenge our students to design actionable change which will have a tangible and positive impact on the future and present- so why would we want them to design and create something that is only ‘almost useful’?

“The Almost Useful Machines” is a practical and intensive two-weeks experimental digital fabrication course designed for the MDEF 1st term. It stands as an introduction to basic fabrication concepts and therefore to the Fab Lab environment. It has been designed to fill knowledge gaps and prepare students for their Fab Academy experience in the next term.

Following Fab Academy’s learn by doing mentality, the MDEF students are challenged with the task of conceptualising, designing and ultimately fabricating a prototype of ‘an almost useful machine’ using digital fabrication practices and electronics. The active learning methodology of the course is based on the practice and spiral development, designed to encourage the creativity and imagination of the participants, as well as stimulate the search for tools and solutions.

Read the full blog article on Fab Lab Barcelona’s website.

Are you interested in learning design in Barcelona this autumn? Applications are now open for the upcoming class of 2021/2022. Next application deadline is May 31st!

Find out more about the Master in Design for Emergent Futures, held at Fab Lab Barcelona.