Photo via Joshua Fuller
Adaptation is a fundamental element in all design, whether consciously or subconsciously. While adaptation is specifically expanding upon existing design elements, a designer’s brain is programmed for this every time we are faced with a new project. We automatically know what will work based on prior experience, inspiration and designs. The more great design we consume, the greater expansion of our potential adaptations.
Hutcheon mentions adaptation as a simplistic view, repurposing content to appeal to a different audience than the original in “Beginning to Theorize Adaptation.” In adaptation, the storyline and theme remain the same but economically-driven forces naturally create adaptations. He states that it’s “more capitalism than fine art” but the connection to culture, aesthetic and personal elements maintains creative control. When designing, we are constantly thinking of the potential market while also ensuring an added artistic touch.
In “Why a Toaster is a Design Triumph,” a simple, instinctive addition of the “A Bit More” button made Bogost’s toaster adaptation the ideal kitchen appliance. By focusing on the users and object together along with needs and pain points, you can create “something that is even more of what it is.” With every design we create, we are making something more, showing something in a more appealing view. Highlighting the need to build user experience into the design process is a helpful reminder of how we create more successful designs.
Comparing these takes on adaptation with Latour’s “A Cautious Prometheus?,” which outlines a philosophy of design, shows nearly identical similarity between the concepts of adaptation and design. Latour suggests that design is a reimagined modernization, turning objects into things. This is greatly related to Hutcheon’s view of adaptation as repurposing.
Finally, in the case of the Hello Kitty toaster, we are reminded that some adaptations are so disconnected with their original inspiration, that they are truly original designs in themselves. Adaptations, while often clear in their link to other work, can often be so far from the original that the inspiration is a second thought to the product. Sometimes it’s much more difficult to notice, but subconsciouly our brain has adapted for us naturally within the design process.
This post is a paper from my graduate studies in Digital Communication at the University of Baltimore.