Designing Design (Tools)

Nolwenn Maudet

January 10th 2019

Who am I?

I'm an interaction designer and a post-doc researcher at the Design Lab, University of Tokyo

Design Research
Mackay & Fayard, 1995
— Introduction —

and their tools

The Paint Tube Revolution

“without colors in tubes, there would have been no Cézanne, no Monet, no Sisley or Pissarro” - Jean Renoir

Crafting one's
own tools
Maison de la pensée ouvrière
Origins of design

appropiating means of production

[Gropius, 1926]

Anni Albers, 1937


We adapt to our tools,
and we adapt them

[Mackay], [Donnot, 2011]

April Grieman / Raymond Hains

— 1 —

Digital Design Tools
from a hylomorphic perspective

“Every human tool relies on, and materialises, some underlying conception of the activity that it is designed to support”

[Suchman, 2007]

The color Picker

given that a designer wants to select a specific colour, help her achieve this goal in the fewest steps possible

Interviews with
12 artists and designers
Alignment commands

given that a designer wants to align these elements, help her achieve this goal in the fewest steps possible


Designers already have in mind the outcome they want to achieve

[Ingold, 2013] Eleanor Wood
Quest for invisibility

“[graphic design tools] take considerable skill to use, and even in the hands of a pro, take too much time, time that could be used to design and create”
Illustrator 88 commercial, 1988

Illustrator 88 commercial, 1988
Instrumental turn
of creativity support tools
— 2 —

Digital Design Tools
from a lineage perspective

Technical Lineage
[Simondon, 1958]

Transition from Celt to Paddle, Spear, and Sword,
in The Evolution of Culture And Other Essays, 1906,
by Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt.

Page Based
Grid Based
Interviews with
12 graphic designers
Designers use grids,
but mostly go beyond
Graphical Substrates

Architecture, principles, guides...

Jacques Bertin [Garcia et al.]
based on concept
based on content
based on context
Spatial Output
Temporal Output
Reusing substrates
Manipulating substrates
Reifying substrates
Bridging the gap
Karl Gerstner
Just Van Rossum
and Erik Van Blokland
Muriel Cooper

Information Landscape, 1994

— Questions —

Reinventing Design
on the web

How do we design
without knowing
the content?

Ted Nelson Robert Massin

Why do we all see the same interface/layout?

How can readers and designers interact?

Parametric Press
Rethink one website

Choose an existing media - plateform on the web
How could people & designers interact through it?


12h00 > 12h45 : group forming & source finding
12h45 > 14h30 : concept creation
14h30 > 16h00 : development & communication
16h00 > 17h00 : 5 min presentation per group


User Style: Stylus
User Script: Greasemonkey / Tampermonkey

Thank you

Special thanks to Wendy Mackay and Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, Ghita Jalal, Marianela Ciolfi Felice, German Leiva and Philip Tchernavskij

Slides built with reveal.js
Fonts: Vesper Libre & Montserrat