The Sum of Things - Sam Watson

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Sam Watson

Table of Contents















1.0 - Introduction

1.2 – Introduction

1.2 – Background and Context

1.3 – Problem Statement

1.4 – Purpose and Research Questions

1.5 – Research Approach

1.6 – Assumptions

1.7 – Rationale and Significance

1.8 – Definitions

1.9 – The Researcher


2.0 – Literature Review







3.0 – Research Questions & Hypothesis

3.1 – Encoding Properties

3.2 – Encoding Parties

3.3 – Encoding Intentionally

3.4 – Encoding Relevantly

3.5 – Conceptual Framework










4.0 – Research Methodology

4.1 – Introduction

4.2 – Method 1: Analyse Objects

4.3 – Findings Interlude 1: Theorycrafting

4.4 – Method 2: Worldbuiling

4.5 – Method 3: Speculative Reimagination

4.6 – Findings Interlude 3: Model Consolidation

4.7 – Method 4: Thorough Values Testing

4.8 – Findings Interlude 4: Model Finalisation






5.0 – Analysis & Interpretation of Findings

5.1 – Inscribe

5.2 – The Design Brief

5.3 – Development of Key Features

5.4 – Chapter Summary


6.0 – Conclusion


7.0 – Appendix


8.0 – References


List of Figures

Figure 1:

Researcher pictured on the right.

Figure 2: Journey of a technology (Recreation of Auger 2012).

Figure 3: Design process diagram (Recreation of Hoover 2018).

Figure 4: Preferable futures diagram (Recreation of Dunne & Raby 2013).

Figure 5: Technological Dreams Series: no.1 (Dunne & Raby 2020).

Figure 6:

Figure 7:

Figure 8:

Figure 9:

Figure 10:

Figure 11:

Figure 12:

Figure 13:

Figure 14:

Figure 15:

Figure 16:

Figure 17:

Early product-value relationship diagrams.

Visible vs. Deep meaning hypothesis.

Development of product-value relationship hypothesis.

Connecting Deep & Visible meaning toproduct-value relationship hypothesis.

Proposed model for creating imaginative Value Contexts.

Proposed model for creating imaginative Value Contexts.

Application of model pictured to the left.

Fork transition sketch.

Early value-oriented design framework.

Speculative iron sketch.

Product/Value intersection ideation.

DO - C - DO product-value relationship model.

Figure 18: Development of interaction between framework elements .

Figure 19:

Figure 20:

Figure 21:

Door handle ideation sketches.

Door handle concept.

Finalised Inscribe framework.

Figure 22: A simplistic robot ecosystem (Recreation of Auger 2012).

Figure 23: Double Variable Scenario Method (Recreation of Inayatullah 2008).

Figure 24: The Futures Triangle (Recreation of Inayatullah 2008).

Figure 25:

Figure 26.

Anarcho-evolutionists...take evolution into their own hands (Dunne & Raby


A pipkin, an earthenware pot used in medieval cooking (Kearns &

Whaley 2018).

Figure 27: 12,000 year old cooking pot fragments (Wayman 2012).

Figure 28: The Lyons tea shop, Piccadilly, London, 1953 (Quinn 2019).

Figure 29:

Mesopotamian kettle, bronze, 3500 B.C.-2000 B.C. (In The Kitchen


Figure 30: Tea ceremony, Japan, 1890 (alimentarium 2020).

Figure 31: Cast-iron kettle,Japan, circa 1600 (Hicks 2019).

Figure 32:

Copper kettle, England, circa 1800 (Richmond Kettle Company


Figure 33: The Swan Company electric kettle, 1892 (In The Kitchen 2017).

Figure 34:

Figure 35:

Figure 36:

Hotpoint electric kettle, circa 1920 (Museum of Design in Plastics


The Swan Company electric kettle with plastic handle and knob,

circa 1960 (Museum of Design in Plastics 2020).

Haden ‘3 pint’ electric kettle, circa 1970 (Museum of Design in

Plastics 2020).

Figure 37: Regal Ware Inc. ‘POLY HOT-POT’ electric kettle, circa 1970

(1StopRetroShop 2020).


Figure 38:

Figure 39:

Figure 40:

Figure 41:

Sunbeam ‘Express’ electric kettle, circa 1980 (Museum of Applied

Arts & Sciences 2020).

Haden ‘Autojug’ electric kettle, circa 1980 (Museum of Design in

Plastics 2020).

Traveller’s ‘Travel Jug’ electric kettle, circa 1980 (Museum of Design

in Plastics 2020).

Rowenta Express ‘KE220’ electric kettle, circa 1990 (Museum of

Design in Plastics 2020).

Figure 42: Breville, ‘the Soft Top Pure’ electric kettle, currently on sale in 2020

(Breville 2020).

Figure 43:

Figure 44:

Figure 45:

Ideation Sketches.

Ideation Sketches.

Ideation Sketches.

Figure 46: Development model of kettle iteration #1.

Figure 47: Basic diagram of function, iteration #2.

Figure 48: Concept sketch render, iteration #2.

Figure 49: Context example with model, boiling water, iteration #2.

Figure 50: Context example photo with model, brewing tea, iteration #2..

Figure 51:

Figure 52:

Figure 53:

Figure 54:

Testing heat conductivity of borosilicate glass.

Testing weight distribution of separated volumes.

Testing core functionality of steam pressure.

Testing user lifting and pouring habits.

Figure 55: Early concept sketch, proposing refi ned concep, iteration #3.

Figure 56: Development model, iteration #3.

Figure 57: Refined concept, context render, iteration #3.

Figure 58: Refined concept, render explosion, iteration #3.

Figure 59:

Figure 60:

Figure 61:

Figure 62:

Figure 63:

Figure 64:

Figure 65:

Figure 66:

Figure 67:

Figure 68:

Figure 69:

Figure 70:

Figure 71:

COO, context render.



COO, viewing water visualisation interaction.

COO, cross-section, steam pressure functionality.

COO, cross-section, steam pressure functionality.

COO, cross-section, steam pressure functionality.

COO, full explosion.

COO, handle explosion.

COO, hook explosion.

Bill’s ideation sketches.

Clem’s ideation sketches.

Heather’s ideation sketches.



Heather Watson

Fashion Designer

Teapot Collector

Kettles live outside place and time. And culture. So

do teapots. Every person since time began grew up with

a version of a kettle at the very heart of their community.

That’s why I love them. And I love old ones better than

new ones because they’ve lived through life after life. And

overheard it all. Secrets, gossip, harsh words and tears.

Their reason for being is to care for us. They refresh us and

excel as a lubricant of communication and a balm for pain.

But all kettles have to get their first gig. And sometimes I’m

prepared to give them their first break.

Like teapots, kettles carry their provenance like

a passport. It’s in their shape and livery and work habits.

No escape. They can carry on long after we’ve left the

building, adding to their biographies with each new person.

Sometimes, even inadvertently, we help them leave the

building. I still feel bad about the aluminium kettle (yes, it

was a student house in the early 1980’s) that I melted the

bottom out of when I left it un-remembered on the old

Kooka stove top in the haunted kitchen in Glebe. All that

remained of the bottom was a blob of liquid metal now

welded to the stove.

Fast forward to the fancy new electric kettles

that switched themselves off. This was a concerning

development. One of the qualities that was designed into

these was obsolescence. Then they started to morph

from friendly round bellied kettles, albeit electric, that

had time to listen, to tall water jugs on speed dial. I felt a

shadow of grief without completely identifying the source.

But I now know that I’d lost more than a utensil, I’d lost the

symbol of community and the moments of reflection that

had punctuated my days. Until I discovered the wonder of

garage sales and op shops..... And there they were, my old

friends. Waiting. Not obsolete. I just had to add water.



A string of existential crises face humankind this

century, and the values dominating the world today are

in obstruction of their resolution. Existing research in the

fields of Design and Futuring suggests that in order to solve

these crises we require new values. While these studies

are effective in highlighting the profound impact of values

in the lives of individuals, and in provoking an appraisal of

the inevitability of the current trajectory of humankind,

they do little to guide industry practice. Informed by

Design and Futuring theory, The Sum of Things employs

knowledge-intensive research to investigate the

relationship between values and designed things, seeking

to uncover opportunities for Design practice to positively

shape the future.

Led by the hypothesis that designs encode

values, and can be intentionally inscribed with particular

values to the benefit of people, exploratory analysis

of the relationship between products and values was

conducted. This involved iterative cycles of research:

supposition of the nature of the product-value relationship,

conceptualisation of products according to these theories,

and the analysis of the limitations in demonstrated

processes and outcomes to refine postulation for the

following cycle. This research confirmed the hypothesis,

contributing to the development of a design framework

for identifying the values within products and intentionally

inscribing them with more favourable values.

Refined through and validated by application

in the redesign of the kettle, this framework empowers

designers to employ more thoughtful and engaging

design practice, enriches users through insightfully

human-centred experiences, and encourages the

pursuit of a shared ‘better’.













Background and Context

Problem Statement

Purpose and Research Questions

Research Approach


Rationale and Significance


The Researcher



1.1 Introduction

When was the last time you offered an inanimate

object compassion? Maybe you dropped your phone and

apologised profusely, or you dug up the dodgy mug that always

got shunted to the back of the cupboard, just in case

it felt left out. Or maybe you’re more rational than the rest of

us and it was a goodnight kiss to a childhood toy while you

were still young and innocent. This dissertation argues that

you’re not as crazy as that one really cynical friend insists;

Things are alive.

Which isn’t to say you’re not crazy; as far as I know

your differently-abled mug doesn’t have feelings, but then

again I’ve thanked an empty elevator so maybe the jury’s

out. Still, feelings or not, Things do have values. Perhaps

not intentionally, but they have values nonetheless. And

those values came from somewhere—a spark of life. Very

real life too, or we wouldn’t feel so bad for admitting, even

behind their back, which mug we like least. But if you’re one

of the cynics you can have it differently: Things are filled

with values, imbued, actively or accidentally, by the actors

involved in their inception.

In turn, Things affect our values.


Background and Context


‘With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics

and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious’

(Bulling & Haken 2017). Not an unfamiliar sentiment, as the

evidence of humanity’s harm continues to pile up in the corner, the

stench becoming hard to ignore. But these aren’t new concerns,

despite their rising prevalence in political discourse. In 1968, Paul

Ehrlich opened his book, The Population Bomb, with a damning

declaration, ‘The battle to feed humanity is over’ (Ehrlich 1968, p. xi).

Not for our success, he goes on, but because of our inaction. In the

fifty-two years following his claim the population of the planet has

more than doubled (Google 2014), corresponding condemningly

to the multiplication of environmental degradation and growing

greenhouse emissions (Weber & Sciubba 2018). So prevalent have

anxieties surrounding these issues become that the American

Psychological Association has coined the term ‘ecoanxiety’, ‘a

chronic fear of environmental doom’ (American Psychological

Association 2017).

Solving these issues, it seems, has become imperative.

Intuitively, therein lies an opportunity for creative problemsolving—the

forte of design. But Dunne & Raby argue that to face

the challenges of the twenty-first century head on is increasingly

inadequate: ‘it is becoming clear that many of the challenges we

face today are unfixable and that the only way to overcome them is

by changing our values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior’ (2013, p. 2).

While even this is a monumental undertaking, many

opportunities nonetheless exist for integrating the pragmatism of

design with the divergent imaginings of Futuring, as established

by the field of ‘Critical Design’, Speculative Design’ or ‘Design

Futures’—as these intersections are varyingly called—to design

solutions sensitive to the requirements of design industry.

Another route, one with a narrower focus, will be proposed in this

dissertation, aiming to shape values by design to help lead the world

toward a more hopeful future.




Problem Statement

While research indicates that, internationally, quality

of life has improved exponentially for most people over the last

five hundred years (Pinker 2018), humanity now faces a queue

of existential crises created by the same forces which have

improved our lives (Sweezy 2004). So rooted are these threats

in the politico-economic forces which dictate the context of

our lives, and thus our values (Clarke 2005), to solve them may

require new values, contexts and forces. Though overarching

systems and structures may be out of range for most designers,

our values are not. Utilising the strengths of both futures thinking

and design, values can be led to better align with humanity’s

hopes for the future.

However, established intersections of these fields exist

in narrative and imagination more than the lived experience of

users, or the commercial needs of established design practice.

There is a disconnect between the necessities of today

and the exigencies of tomorrow. But if the practical demands

of our world can be met through design which prioritises people

and their future, designers could be empowered to make an

enduring contribution.


Purpose and Research Questions

The purpose of this research is to formalise an

accessible and industry relevant process for developing designs

with meaningful consideration for their impact on people and

the planet both now and into the future. This will be attempted

through an exploration of methods for encoding values within

designs, through the medium of consumer products. Initiating this

exploration, a number of research questions are proposed:



How do consumer products encode

particular values?

a. What universal product properties, tangible or

intangible, encode values within a consumer product?

b. How, and by whom, are values naturally imparted to a

consumer product?


How can values be intentionally

encoded within consumer products?


What relevance could a methodology

for encoding values within consumer

products have for established design




1.5 Research Approach

The hypothesis, as crystallised by background

research, in search of a pragmatic approach to future-oriented

design: Design encodes values, which shape the values of people.

Still, the particularities of this hypothesis are

little understood. As such, the research will begin by way

of exploratory analyses of diverse products, with diverse

value contexts, in order to better understand how consumer

products encode values. With this knowledge as a foundation,

experimentation in encoding varied values within analysed

products will be performed as iterative design research. The

knowledge this cycle of conceptualisation produces will be used

to formalise a methodology for encoding favourable values within

consumer products. Efforts will be made throughout to pull this

process toward industry relevance.




The most intractable problems in the world today are

not only daunting, but unsolvable (Dunne & Raby, 2013). Largely,

this is because the politico-economic context of these problems

is working powerfully against any resolution. The degradation

of the environment in parallel with the consolidation of capitalist

economies (Sweezy 2004) is a compelling example of this.

Consequently, the world is a chaotic, half-baked

patchwork of conflicting values and historical coincidence; the

forces driving the nature of society and culture globally (Hurrell

2007). The order which has grown from this tumult is a happy, but

deeply flawed, accident (Hennig 2017). Runciman’s sentiment

seems most apt, ‘What pulls us forwards is our wish for something

better. What pulls us back is our reluctance to let go of something

that has got us this far’ (2018, p. 6). But if we want to move

forward we need to rise above the context which has created the

problems we face; though historical coincidence may be out of

our control, by proposing values which facilitate a more hopeful

world we can design our future intentionally (Dunne & Raby,

2013). Futuring celebrates the imagination of better, and design

works to make better tangible; together they offer the tools we

need to begin leading our values toward the future we want.



1.7 Rationale and Significance

Values shape the world, and design encodes values:

design has a hand in shaping the world. Designers have a hand

in shaping the world. Yet, largely, the consumer products which

designers develop represent the values of capitalism, or the

values propounded by design trends. By encoding favourable

values within products, designers have the opportunity to change

the world at a fundamental level.

Functionally, this exploration seeks to promote the

development of design that better serves the world and its future,

by empowering designers to take control of the enduring impact

of their work. However, the knowledge developed through this

research also aims to contribute to the growing field of Design/

Futuring collaboration. The more design can transcend our

assumptions about the world, the more it can show the world

what the future could be.




Object / Thing / Product:


Value Context:

Value Context:


An object designed by people, for people (unlike an apple,

or a mountain).

A product, service, or system (from a skyscraper,

to Democracy, to a mug).

‘One’s judgement of what is important in life’ (Lexico 2020); ‘Core

beliefs that guide and motivate attitudes and actions’ (Ethics &

Compliance Initiative 2020).

A socio-cultural context which represents a general

collection of values.

‘Better’ means something different for everyone, and this is

not the forum for finding a consensus. For the purpose of clear

communication, let ‘better’ be subjective; it is whatever it looks

like to you, the reader. Thus, though you and I might see it

differently, how we feel about the future when we call it

‘better’ will be the same.



1.9 The Researcher

I’m a product design graduate and honours student

from the University of Technology Sydney. Before beginning this

degree, I (very briefly) studied Communications in Social Inquiry;

from a very privileged position, I had witnessed the dispossession

and hardships of refugee friends imprisoned in Villawood

Immigration Detention Centre, and thought advocacy was my

future. But, I discovered, argument is a slow change maker. So I

moved to design. Still, my passion is somewhere in-between the

two; using and communicating the power of design, to change

the world for the ‘better’.


Figure 1. Researcher pictured on the right.




2.1 Literature Review




‘ [the present] alone

freedom and actuality are

offered’ ... ‘thought about the

Future inflames hope and

fear. [In thinking] about it we

think of unrealities.’ (Lewis,

1942, pp.75-76)


It goes in reverse too. Yesterday is unreal. More

importantly, the last century, the last millenia, the last fourteen

billion years, are all unreal. They were but they no longer are. The

impact they have on what is, on now (the only really real thing)

is completely up to us. But we don’t live long. And, historically

speaking, not a lot changes in most human lifetimes. I was born in

‘95 and by four I was sure computers had always existed. Imagine

my shock when I learned otherwise.

If it existed before us, or if the people around us seem

to take it as a given, we take it as law. And not just the latest

governmental legislation. Deeper than that. We take it as Natural

Law; the ordinances of the Universe. But, if we impose grand

intention over the volatile, interweaving patterns of humanity over

long ages, we ‘think of unrealities’. The future is not beholden to

the past, and unlike the past it is not frozen in time.

Dunne and Raby suggest that the problems humanity

is facing this century are so daunting because the values, beliefs,

attitudes and behaviours which govern us are similarly frozen. We,

as a society, need to thaw our view of the world if we’re to have

any hope of changing the world itself. We need to ‘collectively

[redefine] our relationship to reality’ (2013, p. 2). Inayatullah

reaffirms this position:

At the deepest level is the story of the great city. Is it the search

for the streets of gold? Can we create stories that revalue the

village? Instead of ‘‘bigger is better’’ can we remind ourselves of

the village fireplace where community was best? (2008, p. 13)

David Foster-Wallace puts it more simply, offering a

parable instead: two young fish are swimming beside one another

when they meet an older fish swimming the other way. He nods

at them, saying, “g’day fellas. How’s the water?” The two younger

fish swim on for a while, until finally one turns to the other and

asks, “What the hell is water?” (2005). We are all surrounded by

water largely invisible to us, and the great trouble is that global

warming, state conflict, poverty and global imbalances of power

(which underlie these and so many other challenges) help to

make up that water around us. Therein lies the inconsiderate



irony; though through invisible waters we can see these problems,

solving them submerged recognises their authority. Solving them

submerged grants this water the right to dictate the terms of the

treaty. That is, the natural law by which we live our lives.

Progress is not a line, tracking determinedly toward the

top right-hand side of the graph. I prefer the analogy of the old

family fridge. Covering its surfaces, proud pages present bright,

chaotic scribbles. Over time, stick figures with too many fingers

and incredibly large heads are pinned over the ignorant pollock

plagiarisms, to be buried, themselves, beneath pretty cottages

with a wobbly yellow circle up in the corner of the page. No one

drawing, or solution, is ever perfect progress, but it is connected

to everything before and after, moving, we hope, toward what we

can collectively call, ‘better’. In pursuit of this elusive improvement,

if we can climb up out of the water and see the currents for what

they are, we can open ourselves up to the imagination of many

more hopeful possibilities.

But what role can design play in leading this change if

not simply to ‘solve the problems’ permeating the water? James

Auger, in his study of robots and their application in our homes,

uncovered a mosaic of fictions layered over the physical world;

science fiction had inspired powerful hopes and fears for a real

technology. Not only that, but these fictions had shaped the

movement of that technology through the expectations the world

held for it. This led Auger to connect the need for new ideas and

attitudes with the practice and purpose of design, ‘How can

practice-based design research craft and communicate plausible,

engaging and critical speculations on the technological future?’

(2012, p. 27). To consider his question more generally, how can

design engage, excite and serve the world in leading it towards a

more hopeful future?










Encoding Properties

Encoding Parties

Encoding Intentionally

Encoding Relevantly

Conceptual Framework



3.4 Conceptual Framework

Næss, P. (2006).

Unsustainable growth,

unsustainable capitalism.

Journal of Critical Realism,

5(2), 197-227.

Braungart, M., &

Hennig, B. (2017). The End Of

Politicians: Time For a Real

Democracy (1st ed.). Unbound


McDonough, W. (2002).

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking

the Way We Make Things.

North Point Press.





Tharp, B. M., & Tharp, S. M.

(2018). Discursive Design:

Critical, Speculative, and

Alternative Things (1st ed.).

MIT Press.

Auger, J. H. (2012).

Speculative design ,the

domestication of

technology and the

considered future

[Doctoral dissertation,

Royal College of Art].

Norman, D. (2013).

The Design of

Everyday Things

(Revised & Expanded ed.).

Ingram Publisher Services.

Inayatullah, S. (2008). Six

pillars: Futures thinking

for transforming .

Foresight, 10(1), 4-21.

Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2013).

Speculative Everything (1st

ed.). MIT Press.













Method 1: Analyse Objects

Findings Interlude 1: Theorycrafting

Method 2: Worldbuilding

Method 3: Speculative Reimagination

Findings Interlude 2: Model Consolidation

Method 4: Thorough Values Testing

Findings Interlude 3: Model Finalisation



4.1 Introduction

This chapter marks a transition from theoretical

exploration to personal ownership of the project; idea generation

seems to mean quite a lot more than idea collation. As a

result, the writing will transition similarly: to first person, from

my perspective. This has the added benefit of clarifying why

things were done they way they were; i.e. because I made poor

decisions, rather than because ‘this approach convoluted the

exploration’ (though it did).


So, while secondary research led me to theorise that

design encodes values, demonstrating an opportunity for design

practice, the possibilities for this hypothesis remained unclear.

With no frame of reference, my initial research was exclusively

exploratory. The investigations conducted were used to

contextualise established theory and begin to develop an image

of the nature of the values encoded within products.

Consequently, products were required for analysis.

In attempting to choose relevant typologies, it became clear

that, in order to understand the values connected to a product,

an understanding of the values which motivated its original

conception would be required. This related to Research Question

2, which was quickly answered: the actors who cause a product

to exist, who have a say in what its existence looks like (i.e. what

the final product is and its effect on the world) fundamentally

shape the values within that object. Directly or indirectly, the

parties contributing to its existence collectively define its

values. This was a reasoned deduction: if a question is asked

of the nature of the values in a mug, the only point of reference

for comprehension is, ‘why?’. This is because ‘what?’ only tells

you tangible characteristics of the mug. ‘How’ only elaborates

a history of the mug, whether this one or all mugs. ‘Where’ and

‘When’ only elaborate on the context of the mug. ‘Who’ might

begin to imply something interesting about the mug (perhaps its

emotional significance), but doesn’t reliably clarify anything about

the values the thing encodes. ‘Why’ is the only question that can


find anything about the subjectivity which led to its conception.

Why does the mug exist? Maybe someone wanted to drink

something hot, in a moderate quantity, without burning

their hand. Or maybe they wanted to drink a lot of something

without the inconvenience of refilling the container from which

they were drinking, and a handle made it easier to down. A

subjective desire—a value—propelled the development of a

product which could fulfill that desire. ‘Why’ helps to describe

the values in an object.

Hence, the typologies I identified for analysis using the

four research questions were the Roman Scutum, the Fork and

the Television Remote Control, chosen for the diversity of their

Value Contexts. Concern that choosing products with similar

Value Contexts would provide biased insights motivated this

decision. I then analysed the products in relation to Research

Questions 1 and 2. I also attempted to find a product from a

hunter/gatherer culture, but due to a personal aversion to the use

of colonial methodologies in choosing and analysing relevant

objects, this was infeasible.









Figure 6. Early product-value relationship diagrams .

Target Market



Materiality Interaction Aesthetic



Figure 7. Visible vs. Deep meaning hypothesis .

Deep Meaning

(Conceptual Narrative)

Visible Meaning

(Marketable Narrative)




of S.T.E.E.P.

Contexts (x)


Context (x)

Figure 8. Development of product-value relationship hypothesis .


Figure 9. Connecting Deep & Visible meaning to product-value relationship hypothesis .


Kinds of Properties

S.T.E.E.P. Context



4.4 Method 2: Worldbuilding

As my exploration into Research Questions 1 and

2 began to elicit results, they provided a reference point for

Research Question 3; the development of a methodology which

could formalise the process of encoding particular values within

products. In an attempt to involve more tangible design research

in a largely theoretical exploration, I introduced more practical

experimentation. Initially, this excluded design conceptualisation

or prototyping, instead seeking to experiment with the

development of models for creating imaginative Value Contexts.

This distracted from the core intent by pulling the process

toward an earlier vision for the project, one preceding the intent

established throughout this dissertation. This superceded vision

seemed to have connected with my earlier interest in product

properties to create a kind of a ‘red herring’ of research avenues.

Research Question 3.3

How can values be intentionally

encoded within products?

Thankfully, later conceptualisation, imbuing the

typologies analysed in Research Questions 1 and 2 with Value

Contexts developed through these models illustrated the

redundancy of this research method. While perfectly effective

in creating Value Contexts to which products could be adapted,

they did not aid in encoding values. Moreover, the designs into

which they were encoded proved irrelevantly speculative,

contradicting the intent to develop a tangible intersection of

design practice and futures thinking (as delineated in chapter 2).


Favourable Value

Figure 10. Proposed model for creating imaginative Value Contexts .

Sustainable Energy



Technological Progress

Self Interest

Science (Research)

Economic Growth



Realism Ocean Ocean










Figure 11. Proposed model for creating imaginative Value Contexts.


Figure 12. Application of model pictured to the left .

Realism Ocean Ocean















Figure 14. Early value-oriented design framework. .



Favourable Values

New Context





Figure 16. Product/Value intersection ideation.




Figure 17. DO - C - DO product-value relationship model.







Figure 18. Development of interaction between framework elements .





Figure 19. Door handle ideation sketches.


Figure 20. Door handle concept.


of Findings

Analysis &


of Findings






The Design Brief

Development of Key Features

Chapter Summary




5.1 Inscribe

Rewind, Decree, Narrate, Knit. Rewind to find the values

of a thing, Decree into it new values, tell its Narrative (its story),

then Knit it all into context. If the door-handle suddenly serves

to invite people in, rather than keep them out, its purpose and its

context have been uprooted; a process which questions stagnant

practice and draws it toward new opportunities, connections,

and, most significantly, values; to Inscribe.

While Inscribe has clear and definable steps, shifting

between distinct stages, each step is also interpretive. When

the user moves from Rewind to Decree (or Decree to Narrate)

the process funnels briefly; every user will employ comparable

approaches as they transition into Decree, but the stage of

Decree itself will vary significantly not only between different

subjects of study but, more notably, between users. Where one

designer may choose the industrial revolution as meaningfully

representative of the values of the mug, another might decide

that the overarching trend of materiality throughout the history

of the thing highlights a fundamental flaw. To one, certain values

Figure 21. Finalised Inscribe framework.




might be egregious, to another the same values could laudable.

or negligible. Ultimately, each designer will discern key values,

or define new ones, or describe the world those values demand

according to their own biases. The inevitability of each of these

steps is represented by the short, straight lines; the brief funneling

of the process. But then, arcing briefly away from pragmatism

to find new purposes, new stories, each stage will always swing

back to remember its purpose, or double back to realign its

purpose, before moving on toward practical design development.

Whether divergent or familiar, these bias-driven tangents will

always find, and carry back, renewed purpose.

To exemplify the process of Inscription, I attempted

a comprehensive design task using the typology of the kettle.

Guidelines ratifying the research delineated in earlier chapters

have been defined below, informing the application of this

design task. At the end of each section, representing a stage of

development, an example of the framework is given: these are

summaries of the process as it was executed with the Inscription

of the kettle. These addendums have been included to clarify the

application of a framework which depends on subjectivity and

internal colloquy. For a more succint summary of the process, the

Appendix includes a worksheet for guiding Inscribe application.





Figure 26. A pipkin, an earthenware pot used in medieval cooking (Kearns & Whaley 2018).


Figure 27. 12,000 year old cooking pot fragments (Wayman 2012).



Figure 28. The Lyons tea shop, Piccadilly, London, 1953 (Quinn 2019).


Figure 29. Mesopotamian kettle, bronze, 3500 B.C.-2000 B.C. (In The Kitchen 2017).




Figure 30. Tea ceremony, Japan, 1890 (alimentarium 2020).



Figure 31. Cast-iron kettle,Japan, circa 1600 (Hicks 2019).



For thousands of years, up until the industrial revolution,

the form of the kettle was largely static. While iterative exceptions

have existed throughout time and across the world, variances

were dictated predominantly by regional cultural practices

and production processes.

Figure 32. Copper kettle, England, circa 1800 (Richmond Kettle Company 2020).


Early electric kettles maintained stylistic consistency

with earlier forms, introducing electrical heating technologies

within existing design expectations for the typology.

Figure 33. The Swan Company electric kettle, 1892 (In The Kitchen 2017).



Figure 34. Hotpoint electric kettle, circa 1920 (Museum of Design in Plastics 2020).


Figure 35. The Swan Company electric kettle with plastic handle and knob, circa 1960 (Museum of Design in Plastics 2020).


With the introduction of the electric kettle, and over

years and decades, the form dominating the typology began

to evolve. Despite variances in aesthetic according to style

trend, kettle bodies became chunkier, or more angular. Spouts

shortened and rose to the upper edge of the body, beginning to

imitate the form of the water jug.

Figure 36. Haden ‘3 pint’ electric kettle, circa 1970 (Museum of Design in Plastics 2020).



Figure 37. Regal Ware Inc. ‘POLY HOT-POT’ electric kettle, circa 1970 (1StopRetroShop 2020).


The changes to the body and spout consolidated,

and as time went on the form grew taller, leaning further into the

aesthetic of the water jug in earlier decades. References to now

historical kettle designs were subtle, and the water jug aesthetic

came to dominate.

Figure 38. Sunbeam ‘Express’ electric kettle, circa 1980 (Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences 2020).



Figure 39. Haden ‘Autojug’ electric kettle, circa 1980 (Museum of Design in Plastics 2020).


Stovetop kettles were never retired, their forms

continuing to reference earlier industrial era kettles, but they were

used as design artefacts more often than the primary tool of the

user for heating water. Electric kettles continued to embrace

the functionality afforded by the water jug form; a greater water

capacity, convenience in pouring that capacity, minimisation of

materials for cost-efficiency in production. Exceptions to these

trends existed as outliers.

Figure 40. Traveller’s ‘Travel Jug’ electric kettle, circa 1980 (Museum of Design in Plastics 2020).



Figure 41. Rowenta Express ‘KE220’ electric kettle, circa 1990 (Museum of Design in Plastics 2020).


With the consolidation of the water jug form over the

course of the century, the design heritage of the electric kettle

began to be forgotten. The typology had found a stylistic groove

by absorbing the functional advantages of the water jug and

weaving in subtle references to its form history in material and

shape. The kettle became what it is today.

Figure 42. Breville, ‘the Soft Top Pure’ electric kettle, currently on sale in 2020 (Breville 2020).



6.1 Conclusion


Figure 59. COO, context render.



Figure 60. COO.




Figure 61. COO.





Figure 62. COO, viewing water visualisation interaction.




Figure 63. COO, cross-section, steam pressure functionality.


Figure 67. Final Kettle Design : COO, cross-section.



Figure 64. COO, cross-section, steam pressure functionality.




Figure 65. COO, cross-section, steam pressure functionality.




6.1 Conclusion

It is hard to say what today’s dreams are; it seems they have been

downgraded to hopes—hope that we will not allow ourselves

to become extinct, hope that we can feed the starving, hope

that there will be room for us all on this tiny planet. There are no

more visions. We don’t know how to fix the planet and ensure our

survival. We are just hopeful. (Dunne & Raby, 2013, p. 1)

Will a new methodology for mindful design halt the

rising seas? One can hope. But the real goal of this research was

to pause the design process, to take the space to consider the

depth of impact that designers have on people and the world. To

ask whether design could pave the way to a preferable future.

And not just theoretically; could design, could Inscription, bring

a real, commercially feasible better? Does Inscription cover the

cost of commercial implementation, or of upturning tried and true

practices, or even just comfortable, familiar design habits?

It all comes down to values. The sum of Things. We all

have different values, and we all want people to understand how

important rationality, or compassion, or tenacity really is. How

much better would the world be if we were all on board with just

that one thing? Or even if just our mum, or our mate, or our boss

could understand where we’re coming from? And every brain

we come across, controlling its little meat suit, has, at the very

least, slightly different ones; every value tangling together with

all of the others like a pair of corded headphones in your pocket

in the two intervening seconds between stuffing them away and

deciding you want to listen to something after all. Scrooge sees

the world in dollar signs, but he’s shown another way of looking

at things—he’s given a new set of values—and he runs into the

street bursting with generosity. Within ourselves, and when we

connect with the world and the people in it, values dictate

our experience of reality.

Figure 66. COO, full explosion.



And, usually inadvertently, Demand, Context and

Design decide which values to push into the world. Values that—

in secret—pull our own beliefs into co-alignment. The TV remote

told us it was cool if we stayed seated: minimise effort, you do

you dude—just enjoy yourself. The door handle encouraged

us to nurture privacy: to enjoy its seclusion and eschew new

opportunities for connection—bar the door if you need, this is

your space. The kettle assured efficiency: get things done as

quickly as possible—your time is precious! Hyperbole, sure, but

the values are there. Reinforcing attitudes, invisibly. So, if design

really does shape those values, it has a say in what the world

cares about and how we all see it. Designers have a say in the

values entering the world. The values shaping it and changing

people’s lives. From capitalism to the kettle.

Will a new methodology for mindful design halt the

rising seas? One can hope. But does Inscription cover the cost of

challenging the day to day of design, in pursuit of a more hopeful

future? That depends. But people have been trying to change the

world since it was a whole lot smaller. To butcher the wisdom of

that history: a lot of little goods really add up. But they’re also more

than their sum; every one of them is felt. Every little good makes

life better for somebody.

Rewind, Decree, Narrate, Knit. Rewind history:

understand and honour the heritage of an object, leading it into

closer alignment with people. Decree a new vision: interpret the

wisdom of the past, imagining a more hopeful future. Narrate the

tale: spin the vision into a story, carving a stream into which each

layer of the Inscription can flow. Knit: make it real.

The story of this framework, from background research

through to COO, was far from linear. Even its final incarnation,

as applied through the Inscription of the kettle, rolled and

tangled in on itself. While, as intended, its execution led to an

exemplar encoded with more favourable values and feasible

for manufacture, the process was always looking and leaping

backwards, realigning itself with the story of Narrate and the

history of Rewind. This backward orientation was restless and

temperamental, disruptive and hindering; an impediment to


Figure 67. COO, handle explosion.



the rapidity of development required by commercial demands.

Ultimately, this application of Inscription was limited in its capacity

to intercede in established design practice.

But this was one process, executed by one designer, in

and for one context. Another designer could use the framework

very differently. Inscription is, at its core, honest mindfulness. The

mindful consideration of the values which a design shares with

the world, and the resolution to align those values with a more

hopeful future. It seems a lot for a product to do, but perhaps this

rephrasing humbles it a little: Design for the better.

The following pages illustrate what can happen

when other designers, in and for other contexts, looked

through the lens of Inscribe:


Figure 68. COO, hook explosion.



Figure 69. Bill’s ideation sketches.



Bill, Product Designer:


There is a disconnect between the values within

the alarm clock and users’ experience of them. ‘Self-imposed

Accountability’ is a key value within the typology, but users

become frustrated with their alarm or their phone for waking

them up, despite the fact that they were the ones who

organised that disruption.


To better align the present and perceived values of the

alarm clock, such that users acknowledge their own influence in

the disruption of the alarm.


The user will own the process of waking up by alarm,

rather than outsourcing their frustration to an object. They will

feel responsible for waking themselves up, and take pride in their

ownership of that process.


An alarm clock that needs to be squeezed to be turned

off. The longer it is left alone, or left on snooze, the longer the

user will have to hold it together to turn it off. The accountability

of setting an alarm and sticking to it is translated to the moment

of waking up; the user can no longer blame the device, and will

instead develop healthier waking habits.



Figure 70. Clem’s ideation sketches.



Clement, Product Designer:


The ceiling fan is, more often than not, a crudely

designed solution to indoor cooling. It is relegated to the status

of affordable cooling, secondary to air conditioning. As a result of

this lack of attention to detail, the sound and breeze produced by

the product are often disruptive to focused activity.


A more refined ceiling fan design. One that doesn’t cut

corners or ignore opportunities for the sake of cost-efficiency. A

design that doesn’t disrupt the life of the user.


A ceiling fan attentively to the needs of the user;

it’s presence should be barely perceptible, except by the

pleasure it brings. It will encourage activity of every kind in

the space it serves.


A vertically oriented ceiling fan, smaller and more

subtle than traditional, which could be disguised in other

ceiling ornaments. It will facilitate airflow, and thus cooling,

throughout the room without blowing air straight down onto the

user. Customisable parts could be attached to produce subtle

sounds as the wind passes through to better connect the user

to the outdoors, so benefiting mental health. Perhaps this would

replicate the wind through a tree, or the intermittent chirp of a bird.



Figure 71. Heather’s ideation sketches.



Heather, Fashion Designer:


Clothing plays a significant role in the life of the

homeless, with hygiene, presentability, and the accessibility of

cleaning services exacerbating existing challenges and hindering

improvement to living conditions. Established not-for-profit

services band-aid these problems, overlooking opportunities

to meaningfully enhance the lives of the homeless through

the clothing they provide.


To attend to the potential for clothing design to improve

the lives of homeless individuals. To provide a garment which

can slow the downward spiral of living conditions which can lead

to homelessness. To minimise the challenges clothing poses to

the improvement of living conditions for the homeless (such as

hygiene for job-finding).


Clothing that does more than cover the body, and

insulate from the elements—though these things too. Garments

that function as a tool, to empower the homeless. That meet the

heightened need of their context; greater insulation, durability,

simple maintenance:. Styled to aid an escape from homelessness

by adapting to a job interview as well as they do to a cold night.


Woollen garments, for the durability, thermal qualities,

and hygiene of the fibre. Designed and cut to rug up in the cold

without compromise, and wear down to a job interview without

embarrassment. Sleek and simple, to match this versatility whilst

minimising cost for production. Sink wash and wear, no ironing,

crush resistant and light to carry.



This dissertation has sifted through hypotheses,

uncovering new theory and propounding potential practice. It

has followed the path that it has because, apparently for us, ‘time’

is ‘linear’, and we have to do things in a specific ‘order’. Drinking

a mug of tea is difficult to do if you haven’t boiled the water first,

or, before that, pulled the mug out of the cupboard, or before

that, compassionately (delusionally?) obsessed over which mug

you need to use this time to make sure they all get a fair go. But

‘time’ imposed this order of operations—which, mind you, really

caused quite a few issues; the Research Methodology (4.0) alone

wound a convoluted route forwards before reaching a useful

theory of practice. So, ‘time’, imposed an order of operations and

through it (despite it), eventually, some refinement was reached.

Inscribe found definition in a formalised framework, exemplified

in a redesign of the kettle. Of course, one last hurdle: the specific

delineation pursued in this formalisation contradicted a key

requirement of itself—that it could act outside of theory to be

used in commercial practice and thus contribute meaningfully to

the design of the world.

Thus we arrive at the conclusion, which exists outside of

‘time’, because it sits beyond everything else. Now the mess that

led here can be collected into a big pile and burned, but not before

we nab the good bits and put them in a less useless chronology.

Consider everything before the next two paragraphs burned.

None of it exists anymore and the next bit is all we need.

Things are alive. Not like carbon-based life—they’re

not sentient. But they do have values, and those values came

from somewhere. Those values came from people. The values

that Things hold, right in their belly, leak out constantly. Or maybe

emit is a better word. Like Wi-Fi, the objects are pulsing out waves

of values, subtly suggesting to us what to care about, what to

believe in, how to feel. Tiny bits, over time—over decades and

centuries—until we think that that’s the only way for things to be.

Until we think our feelings are facts; ‘this is human nature, there’s

nothing we can do’ (shrug). But in reality it was just other people,

ages ago (for all intents and purposes), deciding that they wanted

a Thing to do something in particular. And they didn’t consider the

fact that by making it in the way that they were, they’d encourage


themselves and their kids, and all the people living a long time

after they were gone, to think and feel something. Something

that seemed unimportant, but that grew up and hid itself inside

everyone it touched (it wasn’t monstrous, or evil. It was just

insidious. Innocent and insidious).

But sometimes people noticed it. Sometimes people

asked why things needed to be the way they were, and they

discovered that they didn’t, so they changed them. And the

people that changed things made life better for people; they

looked to the past and they used its wisdom to critique and

inform the present, to shape the future. We need to be more like

them—learn backward, question now, move forward. To make

the world a little better.




7.1 Appendix



7.1 Appendix



A design framework for the inscription of more favourable

values within designed Things.

Our values define our experience of reality, and the

shape of it. The designed Things with which we interact influence

those values, and, subtly, mould the world in their image. As such,

designer’s hold a powerful role in shaping people’s experience of

the world. This is a design framework and methodology for the

intentional inscription of more favourable within designed Things.

It is a process of mindful attention to the influence of things on

people, to make the world a little better, by design.




Rewind to analyse the nature and heritage of a

designed Thing. Decree to evaluate the benefit and detriment

of the values it carries, and to define more favourable ones.

Narrate to blend the affective benefit of bias into an active

new direction for the designed Thing. Knit to intertwine the

wisdom of each stage with the functional requirements of

the designs destined context.

Each stage flows interpretatively into the next, guided

in a clear direction by the requirements of that next stage. It will

swing wildly according to your own biases, and you will impose

your own interpretation of the execution of the methodology onto

your process. Each stage is a guideline, and the specifics are

clarified to define intent and aid execution, rather than constrain

your process. Take this framework and make it your own; let your

own design guide the route through its execution.





If, at the end, you’ve mindfully considered the values

within a designed Thing, and you’ve reimagined it according to

more favourable values (by your own definition, and that

of the people with whom you share this process), you

will have succeeded.

That’s in bold because it’s the most important thing here.

You don’t have to follow each step meticulously, you don’t have to

meet any requirements: everything after this point is a guideline.

You do you.]


To Begin:

Choose a designed Thing which you want to redesign.

Or if this exercise is for fun, a typology with which you’re very

familiar (to save on Rewind time). Investment of input in Rewind

and Knit will be proportional to the quality of output. While also

true for Decree and Narrate, they will inevitably be refined through

attention to Rewind and Knit.




Understand the purpose, understand the heritage;

understand the ‘why’.

• Purpose/’Why’: What is the functionality of the designed

Thing? Why do people want that functionality? (Why people

want the functionality tends to be the values encoded

within the design). Alternatively, ask ‘why?’ until you reach

an answer that implies a subjective desire, rather than a

functional need.

• Heritage: What is the history and heritage of the designed

Thing? What did different iterations do well? How did the

purpose, function, aesthetic and user-experience of the

thing change over time?

• E.G. The door-handle:

» Purpose: to open doors. But why do we need to open a door?

Because the door is in our way. Why is the door in our way?

Because it is closed. Why is it closed? We wanted privacy, so

we closed it, or, we wanted security, so we closed it. Privacy

and security, the reason people want the functionality of a door,

are the values driving the existence of the object.

» Heritage: Where did the door-handle begin? How did it

change? First it was a couple of iron hooks and a barricade

across the opening of the door, then it became a large and

unwieldy bolt, but with the industrial revolution more refined

iterations of the object became available affordably. Smaller

bolts, and locks fitted inside doors were developed. Still,

despite improvements to security, and the redundancy of a

need for security in some places, the lock and door-handle,

consolidated as it was in the design of the world, continued

to be designed and used for much the same function as had

motivated its conception thousands of years earlier.





Form an opinion and direction, take responsibility.

• Is the value you found favourable? Is it good for people? Do

you want to promote that value as it is?

• If not, choose a value to ‘Inscribe’ within the object—this

will be the new purpose of the product. What might a more

favourable value be? Look to the heritage of the object; does

it imply a value that would better suit the object? This is up

to you and your own biases. It is dependent on the specific

insights you have generated through your evaluation of


• E.G. The door-handle:

» ‘The door-handles’ purpose, rooted as it is in privacy and

security, serves to separate people. Instead, it could be

designed to bring people together. I Decree that my doorhandle

will encode Community!’

» ‘With the invention of the electric kettle, the kettle has tried to

get faster and faster, but it’s still boring to wait through. But it’s

pursuit of efficiency and convenience is relatively recent; for

most of history it seems to have had a different purpose—ritual

and culture, rather than speed. I Decree that my Kettle will

encode Ritual, instead of efficiency and convenience!’




Take ownership, manifest your bias; the beginning of a brief.

• Write a couple of sentences that help to capture its new

value, that help to visualise the new intention for the design.

These should be affective, creative, passionate, to paint a

picture of your intent for the design.

• E.G. The door-handle:

» ‘The door handle invites people into the room. It doesn’t help

people to separate themselves, but encourages them to come

together. Not forcefully. Gentle encouragement.’

» ‘The purpose of the kettle, boiling water, is now a precious

commodity, and enjoyed all the more for it; like a small child

who finds fifty cents on the ground. It is a pleasure in itself. It’s

a slowing down. It’s a shared experience. It’s set aside for the

uses which its pleasure honours.’





Conceptualise, Iterate and Refine.

• Use an amalgamation of your Narration (Step 3.) and the

intended context for your design as a design brief to begin

conceptualising. Knit your Narration, and the insights

generated through the whole Inscription process (The

heritage of door-handle carries useful affordances for

gripping and turning and pulling, the materiality implies x to

the user, the aesthetic benefits users because of y) together

with the requirements of the functional intention for the

object (a design that doesn’t conflict with existing values,

and could be installed in the doors adjoining certain rooms

immediately. Hand-crafted in quantity, to package and ship

as orders arrive). This will wind back and forth as an iterative

negotiation between the new values and your functional

requirements, gradually refining a fit-for-purpose design.

• You are not reinventing the wheel. You are not hot shit for

your value-driven innovations. You are drawing on the

wisdom already within your designed Thing to guide its

influence on the world more mindfully. The sun may not shine

out of your ass, but this is thoughtful and considerate design.

You’re trying to make the world a little better, and that’s far

more commendable.




8.1 References



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What does better look like? For a wound; likely healing. For

a public transport system; punctuality (probably). After that, things

become hazy. What does better weather look like? Cloudless skies or

billowing winds? A better job; is it one that offers higher satisfaction,

more free time, or a bigger paycheck?

It just depends on values. And while there are plenty of things

we can experience that are largely out of human control (weather, our

genes, the actions of others) there’s a lot we have a say in, too. When it

comes to those things—designed things—who’s deciding which values

we pursue? Humankind, together, has a big influence, but its voice

only offers incidental opportunities for an unsupervised definition of

‘better’. Designers get to direct things in a more active way, but with the

influence of often unacknowledged personal biases this too tends to be

largely incidental. The progenitors of a thing—the ones who bring it into

existence—have the most explicit say, but even they’re swayed by, or

beholden to, humanity and design.

Together, over time, these actors have built the world around

us through their activity in designed things. They have built a landscape

of values, speaking into our own beliefs and attitudes, shaping our

experience of everything. Yet, despite the influence these designed

things have on the landscape of our lives, the thoughtful pursuit of a

better future through them often goes neglected. Instead, to design

attentive to values—The Sum of Things—offers the hope of a positive,

lasting design legacy. Through more mindful practice, Designers hold a

powerful role in shaping new possibilities for the future, founded on the

pursuit of a shared ‘better’.

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