Experientia’s vision of Slow Life is as a way to improve our quality of life by using design to create diversity and sustainability that focuses on human-centred elements.
Experience design is a human-centred activity. It starts with a deep understanding of people’s behaviours and contexts of living or working, and the end-result is a product or service that provides people with a quality experience or a culturally relevant solution.
With the focus clearly and deliberately on people, other issues, such as technology, economics, belief systems, or the broader topics of ethics and sustainability, sometimes seem to take on a secondary role. But these issues go to the very core of what it means to be human. The way that we organise our lives and societies in social, economic, spiritual and environmental terms is very much part of our human experience.
Increasingly, the slow movement is encouraging people to consider ways to reduce the busy pace of life, and focus more deeply on these elements. Instead of simply employing time-saving devices to reduce our workload, slow life focuses on making daily tasks and encounters more meaningful, dedicating the necessary amount of time to each element to achieve a quality experience.
Finding the time to make connections
While the concept of Slow Life may seem to imply a relationship just with time, it is also about connections – connections to people, food, culture, place, community and so on – that allow us to experience life more deeply and with more pleasure. While many see the shift to a slow life as eschewing modern-day trappings, this connection to life can and should be facilitated by the technologies that allow us to mediate our daily relationships and interactions.
As we begin to understand the new paradigms of communication and time management in an internet age, we must devise and use technology to help us to connect, whether this connection is with other people, the place we live, our community or the food on our plate. If our mobile phone makes us available 24 hours a day, designers must explore ways to use this feature to improve quality communication with loved ones, and reduce the stress of being always “on”. If the internet allows us to interact with more people, technology must support ways to make these interactions as meaningful and worthwhile as more traditional, face-to-face methods.
Slow life ecosystem
Technology can help people not only in interacting with each other, but also in accessing products/services/information. This is especially true in this transition period when the focus of design is no longer a single product/service but an ecosystem. A well-designed, meaningful and fulfilling ecosystem will be naturally more satisfying and sustainable than one which requires people to continually seek new products and services to fulfil their needs. This does not limit diversity however – in terms of functions, culture and biology, diversity plays a strategic role in making an ecosystem and its elements flexible and self-renewable.
Diversity does not mean separation and fragmentation but, on the contrary, requires a constant dialogue between all the parts of the system and an active contribution of people through mutual cooperation. A good example of such a sustainable, diverse ecosystem is community-supported agriculture, where individuals support a local farm and in return receive local, high-quality foods. In this way, the risks and benefits of organic food production are shared, with people offering mutual cooperation, particularly in the delivery process. While this requires time and commitment from people, it offers back benefits of quality and lifestyle that are not achievable with “fast” methods.
Interfaces that offer more human, intuitive and natural elements; products that are sustainable and local; services that support and improve daily life for people in emerging markets; communication platforms that allow people to connect more intimately and slowly: “Slowing down” is not just about reducing the frenetic pace of life, it is about creating deeper, more meaningful relationships with the things that surround us, and taking the right amount of time to do things to a high quality level. In this context, there is a very real role for design to make the world a better, “slower” place. We can let our technology live in the fast lane, while we take it slow.