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Designing from the unfamiliar: how designing for space and extreme environments can generate spin-off and innovate product strategies.

Fairburn, Susan Marie; Dominoni, Annalisa


Susan Marie Fairburn

Annalisa Dominoni


Louise Valentine

Brigitte Borja de Mozota

Julien Nelson

Sevi Merter

Paul Atkinson


We moderate our world and our interactions with objects and others through our behaviours, habitats, clothing and gadgetry. Designers seek new ways to innovate products but there is a limit to our experiences and observations of the everyday and there is opportunity in finding ways to aid our imaginations. This paper proposes that experience gained designing for Space and extreme environments could enrich design research through the application of unfamiliar design scenarios. The proposal is based on first-hand research by the authors who work in the area of space architecture. Using the experience of design for Space to inform methodologies for design on Earth may generate a paradox, as clearly microgravity isn't a condition on Earth, but therein lies the opportunity to find analogous ways to create this state, and other states, to generate new conditions, in turn leading to design innovation. What is an extreme environment? Outer Space has always been an environment considered too cruel and hostile for life to exist. Earth presents a more familiar environment that supports life and that enables us to explore and exist. But, what if everything we know about forces and mechanisms changed? How would we perceive the interface between the body and the material world? How would we interact with the environment if tested under extremes? And, how can those extremes inspire design for everyday terrestrial living conditions? Designing for environmental extremes is a perspective, a transformative lens, for applying lessons learned from extreme scenarios to assist us in methodologically imagining not only new things, but also a wider range of possibilities.

Start Date Apr 22, 2015
Publication Date Apr 24, 2015
Publisher Sheffield Hallam University
Institution Citation FAIRBURN, S. and DOMINONI, A. 2015. Designing from the unfamiliar: how designing for space and extreme environments can generate spin-off and innovate product strategies. In Valentine, L., Borja de Mozota, B., Nelson, J., Merter, S. and Atkinson, P. (eds.) Proceedings of the 11th International European Academy of Design conference (EAD 11): the value of design research, 22-24 April 2015, Paris, France. Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University [online], track 16, paper 3. Available from:
Keywords Extreme environments; Design for space; Design innovation; Creativity tool; Design methodology


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