An intriguing juxtaposition between machine and this unusually emotional sticker, desolé drew me in. At first, looking at this scene in the Underground City of Montreal network — a hybrid space that occupies many square blocks underneath the city and consisting of mostly retail spaces interconnected with tunnels and escalators and subway train stops — I was drawn to the sprout of infrastructure awkwardly placed in the midst of an area where people approach a ticket booth to purchase tickets or make inquiries and so forth.
This box was just sprouting like a weed in the middle there, clearly the result of either a system upgrade which required some additional infrastructure, or perhaps it was always there of necessity and was built around. Either way, it’s undesigned because it takes into account only the functioning of the infrastructure and not people and the ways they participate in the network of underground flows. Sure, it’s absolutely instrumental and utilitarian, but there is where the design component leaves the solution. Without thinking about people, you have a bunch of boxes and wires that makes the engineers proud, but forces the machines, as in this instance, who participate as social objects always and never just as instrumentalities, to plead to the people who must walk around it — sorry. I’m really sorry that I have been introduced as a nasty, sharp edged box right in the midst of your path. I can only imagine the flows here during a busy morning or evening commute!
With this post, I introduce a new category — Undesign — to capture the observations I come across in which instrumentality and the lack of people-thinking is so clearly the guiding principle of the object or activity that I need to annotate and continue to work through my thinking about design and people and their relationships.