Innovating Through Anomalies
According to philosopher Thomas Kuhn, the discovery of an anomaly in science ultimately leads to a period of crisis in which new approaches are permitted because the current theory or mode of operation is not sufficient to explain the anomaly at hand. This eventually causes a paradigm shift in which people must challenge their assumptions and re-frame the problem in order to solve the puzzle (yielding scientific breakthroughs like Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, Newton’s gravity, and Einstein’s relativity).
As designers, however, we seek to reverse this flow and initiate this state of crisis to trigger new ways of seeing things. Science and design are both based on problem-solving and when we ask new questions, we will find new answers. While this may lead to the creation of an anomaly in the system, it will also lead to innovation. Anomalies deviate from what is standard or expected, and to innovate is to defy and disrupt the norm.
Over the last decade, ICRAVE has worked hard translating what we have learned within the hospitality sector to transform how people experience everything from transportation hubs to healthcare environments.
With airports, we questioned what could be done to relieve the anxiety experienced by many travelers, in addition to elevating the overall travel experience. The result? By shifting the location of airport venues from the expansive concourse into the nearby gatehold and introducing an innovative iPad interface for dining, passengers can keep an eye on their gate and actually ‘settle in’ while waiting for their flight.
Similarly, our work with Memorial Sloan Kettering looks to empower patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers through flexible spaces that support, engage, and understand – rather than isolate. Realizing that many patients and their families are entering the facility for hours or even days at a time, ICRAVE envisioned the waiting room not as a sea of chairs, but as a series of ‘campsites’ which provide diverse respite areas for patients, caregivers, and the MSK staff to gather together for support.
In Food Halls
On the other side of the world, ICRAVE recently participated in a competition for a food hall in Dubai, a metropolis which thrives on a culture of imports. While the United Arab Emirates imports upwards of $100 billion of food per year, our winning proposal instead envisioned a future for food retail as an engaging destination where food is grown, harvested, and prepared directly on premise through lush vertical farms. This disruptive strategy aimed to educate and engage users through direct access to the environmentally-conscious production of food, rather than just providing them with a singular dining experience.
Thomas Kuhn refers to anomalies as ‘violations of expectations’ and in truth, there is no better description for innovative solutions. We as designers can instigate the crisis that will revolutionize industries if we are willing to challenge our assumptions, explore the alternatives, and embrace anomalies. Join us throughout this next issue as we explore design anomalies.