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Brain_manufacturing: The Perfect Design Based on Brain Activity

23/07/2015 17:25 BST | Updated 23/07/2016 10:59 BST

My biggest idea so far? Well it started like many other great, inspiring and world changing ideas: in a bar.

It was my graduation year and I was obsessing with my role as a designer and at the same time I felt like I could conquer the world. So after a few beers, great discussions combined with great company I decided that the next design I would make had to be perfect. I longed, like so many others in the creative field, for awards, for recognition and maybe a little fame. But our profession as a designer is a pretty tough one because all we make and do is subject to these hard to grasp emotions like the personal taste and preference of your audience. So I figured, if I really want to make something perfect, the best design in the world, I should exclude the emotions. I'll take a shortcut to perfection by using science instead of taste and personal preference. So if you would say you didn't like it, I could prove you wrong, because science sad so. Wouldn't that be nice?

The next morning, unlike so many other drunken ideas, this one felt like it could really go somewhere. First I decided I had to exclude my own personal preference and taste and make something based on the preference and taste of a group of non-designers. Second, I didn't want so ask what they like, I wanted look in their brains to find the truth. I had the idea that what we consciously like, doesn't always match to what our brain prefers. I would call it Brain_manufacturing.

To make this work I started to collaborate with The Spinoza Centre for NeuroImaging in Amsterdam, a neuroscientific research centre and Dr Steven Scholte, neuroscientist and visual preference expert. I wanted to know what people prefer when it comes to the three most important design choices that normally I would have to make; shape, colour and material. We conducted a scientific experiment in which we would place twenty individuals in fMRI scanners and measure their brain activity directly. We found out that their brain often reacts in a positive way to something completely different than to what they say they like. The group consciously said they like blue, wood and open round shapes, but their brain actually gets excited by red, plastic and closed organic shapes.

So, almost three years after my 'big idea', I finished the research and discovered the scientific formula for the perfect product. I developed a new research and design method. With this I could 'hack' personal preference and taste. If I want to make something that is perfect I need to use these ingredients: red, plastic and organic shapes. With these three design choices I developed a series of perfect products. Everything can be designed by using this formula. I made mirrors, side tables, plant pots, bowls, vases and the series is still growing.

Currently I'm working on the next step in this research project; Your Brain_manufacturing. With this project I'm going to create a hyper individual design, based on the preference of the brain of just one person. In this case the consumer is also the producer; the test subject makes all the important design choices with his brain-preference, my roll as a designer is to just put them together and create an object. So who is going to be the lucky first test subject? I wanted to look in the brain of someone that works in the design-industry so he or she is confronted everyday with preference and taste. Who better to ask than a design journalist? The first volunteer that will find out what he réally likes will be Marcus Fairs, creator and director of Dezeen, worlds leading online design magazine. For this project I'm going to focus on the relationship between the consumer, Marcus, and the product. What will this relationship be if conscious preference doesn't match the brain preference and thus the object. How will Marcus Fairs react if I bring him a table or chair or something else that is based on his subconscious preference? The object I'm going to create based on hiss his brain preference is supposed to be perfect, if he doesn't like it, the only person he could talk to is himself.

I'm really excited to see how this new research project will play out. Hopefully we will learn something about consumer-product relationships, preference and maybe even about the roll of designers. This will be an exiting new chapter in the Brain_manufacturing research line and a step closer to perfection.

Merel Bekking

www.merelbekking.nl

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