Refocus Attention Towards Observing in Design Foundation Education

  • Magnus Feil
  • Milagros Zingoni
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 785)


The ability to create sophisticated artifacts to improve life has been a hallmark of the human species. Over the years we’ve reached a point where nature has come to play a minor role in our daily lives. This affects almost every aspect of our existence: transport, housing, food production, communication, entertainment, etc. Such technological advances have brought efficiency, convenience and safety. Modern life would be unthinkable without the technological amenities and systems available to us. As a means of survival in a potentially hostile world, we have changed from active observers and participants within the environment into merely passive actors within the boundaries of a manmade reality whose comforts we have taken for granted. With the development of modern forms of communication beginning with the radio and television and recently the Internet and virtual reality, we have become further distanced from the natural world. It is now possible to live completely detached from nature. For everything natural, a substitute has been created. Even the intangible human imagination has been desensitized and “dis-trained” to see the world in a particular way that is now mediated by technology. Furthermore, the pacing of modern life leaves little room for rest, contemplation and reflection. This poses a great risk for aspiring designers who are tasked to envision a better world. It has become easy to draw upon information from far-flung places via the Internet, yet we neglect what lies in our immediate surroundings. To address this, John R. Stilgoe astutely calls for “regaining history and awareness in everyday places” in his manifesto “Outside Lies Magic” [1]. In the context of Design Foundation Education, it is essential to stimulate the skills of observation and discovery as a prerequisite for problem solving. The environment around us offers a surprising amount of solutions which can be unlocked when we access all of our senses. For design educators, it is critical to remind students that solutions can be right in front of them when they are willing to go outside. This case study intends to refocus attention towards observing what is already there in close physical proximity. With all the discoveries to be made outside, impressions can lead to a more thorough understanding of our environment and ultimately stimulate better solutions.


Design education Design foundations Observation Discovery Environment Affordances Storytelling 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Design School Herberger Institute for Design and the ArtsArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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