From stone axes to digital computers and prising open a paint can with a spoon handle, humans are natural tool users and tool creators. We see that the affordance of tools is not innate, but linked to the different times and cultures in which we live; part of a constant co-development of artefacts and understanding. Heidegger argued that, for the skilled craftsperson, the ‘equipment’, the assemblage of tools, becomes ‘ready-to-hand’, almost invisible with focus on the job at hand not the tools used to perform it. Breakdown, when the tool becomes apparent, is often a sign of failure or poor design, but we can use this as a positive design heuristic, by understanding the causes of these failures, preventing them. Paradoxically, it is these points of breakdown, when we become aware of what we are doing, not simply doing it, which can also be the prompt for reflection and innovation.
Keywords: Tools, Equipment, Machines, Affordance, Heidegger