Design for age, design for all

by | Thursday, August 28, 2008

The NYTimes has a story (For the Advanced in Age, Easy-to-Use Technology) about companies that are creating tools that are “helping those in their 60s maintain their youthful self-images.”

What is interesting is that these technologies are typically not directly aimed at the aging boomer market. As the article says:

The companies that are successfully marketing new technologies to older people are not those that have created high-tech ways for seniors to open jars. Rather, they are the ones that have learned to create products that span generations, providing style and utility to a range of age groups.

They examples the article lists include the Apple’s iPod and the Honda Element.

Consumers with less-nimble fingers find the large knobs in Honda’s boxy Element easy to manipulate. But Honda did not design them for the arthritis stricken, but for young people who drive while wearing ski gloves, said a Honda spokesman, Chris Martin. The Element’s design, aimed at younger people, inadvertently attracted consumers across age groups.

I find this idea of technologies designed for one group becoming attractive to other groups (with differing needs) quite interesting. It reminds me of how assistive technologies enter schools aimed at children with special needs but often get used by others. A good example is text to speech – useful for children with reading problems – being used by the general student, who may prefer listening to information rather than read it directly on screen.

This is part of a general idea that the affordances of technology can be leveraged by different groups for their own purposes – a repurposing of technology as it were. I have argued elsewhere (and infact made this point quite strongly during my recent presentation in India, see here) that it is this repurposing that lets generic technologies become educational technologies. I made a similar point in this posting as well.

Topics related to this post: Creativity | Design | Engineering | India | Teaching | Technology | TPACK | Worth Reading

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Design & Creativity at Purdue

I will be at Purdue University, at the School of Engineering Education later this week, making a presentation titled: Unpacking Design and creativity: What I think I know, and what I (quite certainly) don't. I am quite looking forward to this trip, mainly because I...

Harris, Mishra & Koehler, republished

Back in 2009, Judi Harris, Matt Koehler and I published in a piece in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education. That article has now been included in a book, titled: Considerations on Technology & Teachers: The Best of JRTE, edited by Lynne Schrum, and...

EPET @ SITE in New Orleans, the video

Sandra Sawaya has created a video from photographs taken during our recent sojourn to New Orleans for SITE2013. I think it captures a bit of what we did over there - lots of photos of food and friends, and some presentations. Enjoy.

The loneliness of a long distance migrant

“On bad days, I do feel lonely in a way that I can’t explain,” so says Dilip Ratha, a World Bank economist who studies the economics of migration. The article, a profile of Ratha's life and work, is worth a read, but what really stood out for me was the above quote,...

Failed Haiku

Failed Haiku

Failed Haiku Five syllables firstSecond one has seven moreA failed Haiku! So close... almost had it. In keeping with the meta-theme, here is another one, written many years ago, and lightly edited by Danah Henriksen. Turvy-Topsy limerick This limerick-wiseHas not...

TPACK in the land down under

I recently received an email from Debra Bourne, IT Coordinator at St. Paul's International College in Australia informing me about some work related to TPACK being done in Queensland. Specifically she mentioned a paper to be presented at the upcoming Australian...

Kuala Lumpur & Penang

I love Malaysia. I love its greenery, its up and down hilly landscape, the colors and designs of the houses, and yes the food. Malaysians are food crazy. There are food stalls everywhere and the range and variety of food available is just amazing. My first night here...

By the Numbers

I just discovered a blog by Charles Blow, visual Op-Ed columnist for the NYTimes. Titled By the Numbers it is a site for "discussion about all things statistical — from the environment to entertainment — and their visual expressions." Pretty cool. Check it out.


  1. Ryan F

    I think it’s great that they are developing technologies for a market that isn’t usually targeted.

  2. Shawna

    Very interesting insights of companies marketing strategies! Never underestimate your peer group.

  3. Mohammad Fletcher

    Interesting reading, thank you!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *