Using MRI Brain Scans to Co-Design Everyday Objects
July 5, 2014 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Expanding on the idea of the sharing economy where we crowdsource ideas and designs then crowdfund them into production, Dutch artist Merel Bekking brings high technology into the fold adding another dimension to this human process.
Unveiled at FuoriSalone’s Ventura Lombrate at Milan’s Salone de Internazionale del Mobile 2014, Brain_manufacturing, employs medical MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) brain imaging to determine individuals’ preferences for colors, shapes, and materials.
Bekking picks up on what brands call “neuromarketing” but turns this process around using the imaging not as a method for determining marketable designs, but as a design tool for creating designs. Think of it as a focus group in which participants co-create designs based on the choices their brains make.
Bekking is not new to using research as part of her design process. She often plays with changes in perspective as she explores subjects from every perceivable angle.
Throughout the design process, says Bekking, the designer makes choices, selecting shapes, colors and materials. “If you let a group of non-designers make these choices,” poses Bekking, “will you end up with the perfect design? And if you ask people directly versus letting their brains give the answer via imaging, will there be a difference?”
In collaboration with psychology and science departments of the Spinoza Center at the University of Amsterdam, Academic Medical Center Amsterdam, Vrije University and Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Bekking worked with Dr. Steven Scholte, associate professor at the University of Amsterdam, an expert in the field of visual perception and personality, and partner in Europe’s first neuromarketing research and consulting firm Neurensics.
The two conducted research with a group of 20 individuals (equal numbers of males and females between the ages of 20 and 30, all with higher education.) To pinpoint a subject’s likes and dislikes, she showed each a variety of shapes, colors and materials while they laid in an MRI for an hour.
The results? The scans indicated that people preferred plastic, the color red and closed organic shapes. “It is surprising to see that the individuals answers differed from from what the scans showed, said Bekking. “They said they liked wood, the color blue, and open, round shapes. “This clearly shows that what individuals think they prefer doesn’t match the preferences of their brains,” concluded Bekking.
Bekking used the MRI scans to guide her in creating–you guessed it–a series of red plastic closed organic-shaped perfect everyday objects.