From user-centred design to design that removes

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Get over with user-centred design

User-centred design has imposed itself solely on the development of computer interfaces and protocols. Far from being neutral, on the contrary, this approach to design is biased, because it is based on certain clearly identified users – workers, consumers – while other more precarious populations, or those with less formatted practices, remain in its blind spot. Reducing an object’s thinking to its sole use also comes at the cost of a more global reflection which could integrate, for example, the waste the object will eventually become. At the invitation of the Rennes Digital Tech Conference 2021, Anthony Masure, head of research at HEAD – Genève (HES-SO), and Brieuc Saffré, director of the Circulab circular design agency, started a critique of user-centred design in order to consider other avenues, from citizen-centred design to design that takes away rather than adds. We publish here an audio version of this discussion moderated by Julien Vey, president of Saint-Malo’s Institut supérieur de design.

Steps of a user-centred design process


The design that removes

In his essay Faire place 1, the philosopher Pierre-Damien Huyghe spoke out in favor of an art in charge of revealing the void. Less than the lasting which clutters for a long time, it would be a question of preserving vacant spaces which allow future generations to imagine their own present.

The French designer Mathilde Pellé has been exploring this potential of ther less for several years now through a strategy of subtraction. Her research project Maison Soustraire consisted of removing two thirds of the material from 112 objects in a habitat over a period of eight weeks. This radical experiment is the subject of an exhibition at the Biennale Internationale de Design de St-Etienne until July 31, 2022.

On this occasion, we republish an interview Mathilde Pellé gave to the artist and editor Jean-Baptiste Farkas on these questions of subtraction, scarcity and absence.

Click on the image to get access to the interview


Cover image : Mathilde Pellé, Pelle-Balayette, expérimentation Maison Soustraire, 2021. Courtesy : Mathilde Pellé



  1. Pierre-Damien Huyghe, Faire place – Remarques sur la qualité d’une certaine pauvreté moderne, Dijon, Presses du réel, 2009