What will happen if you develop a design object based on the brain activity of just one person? What kind of relationship will develop between the person and the object? Dutch Designer Merel Bekking is the midst of finding out. She has put Marcus Fairs, design journalist and founder of Dezeen, in a fMRI scanner and discovered that Fairs’ brain prefers orange, plastic, rounded shapes and chairs. Bekking has created a design based on these results and Marcus Fairs now he has to live with a big, bright and glossy chair.
Merel Bekking used her established research and design method Brain_manufacturing but this time applied it to just one individual. In October 2015 Marcus Fairs has spent an hour in an fMRI scanner to determine what he likes, despite of what he says he likes. The fMRI scanner was used as a design tool by directly measuring Fairs brain activity while looking at all sorts of colours, shapes, materials and objects. With this method Marcus Fairs has given Bekking his formula for the perfect object.
In a collaboration with neuroscientist dr. Steven Scholte and the Spinoza Centre for NeuroImaging, Bekking discovered that Marcus Fairs’ brain has a strong preference for orange, plastic, closed rounded shapes and chairs. Using the results, Bekking has spent months to create a hyper-individual design based on these design choices. Last April she has visited the home of Marcus Fairs where she placed the final object in his living room, which marked the beginning of the second part of Bekkings research.
“Now I want to discover what happens if you have to live with an object that you like subconsciously, but consciously have other feelings about. Will the first reaction of Marcus make place for a new one? How does he relate to his own creation since he made, while lying in the scanner, all the important design choices?”
The coming months Bekking will monitor him, like an anthropologist, and will investigate what kind of relationship will develop between him and the final object.
After having lived with the object Marcus Fairs will once more be placed in a fMRI scanner. This time Bekking will look for how his brain reacts to seeing the object, compared to seeing other objects. What will his brain tell us about the object? Did Fairs and the object form some sort of bond? Will there still be a contradiction between what Fairs thinks he likes and what his brain like? These questions will be answered later this year. With this project and the unique combination of state-of-the-art design method and design-anthropology Bekking will give us new insights on design preference and taste in general.