Talk to most Industrial Designers about working on product development teams and at some point one thing will likely come out: non-user focused decision making is commonplace. I’ve been there. I’ve worked on products where it was more important to the team that the product meet business-centric requirements than function properly in the hands of the consumer. In fact, it’s not uncommon for businesses to initiate projects only because they have machines sitting idle and need to keep them operating and not because they have a solution to a User need. The bigger problem is, this issue isn’t unique to the world of consumer product development. This is a much broader issue and is why there is (d)esign, as in what an Industrial Designer does day in and day out; and (D)esign, which is Big Picture stuff and something anyone can do but which so few seem able or willing to do (including many (d)esign-focused Industrial Designers). Spend some time on the Terra Nova blog, the hang out for a few of the videogame industries more prominent voices, and witness for yourself how difficult it can be to shift perspective off Developers and onto Users. In my recent online discussions on TN – especially in the wake of Clay Shirky’s assault on Linden Lab’s metrics – the solutions to establishing standardized metrics continually gravitate to a Developer perspective as if no one else has a valid interest. The band’s playing the same tune, it’s just a different club.
With that in mind I came across a couple of good posts via the TP Wire Service site. The first is a post by Diego Rodriguez on the metacool blog (Link). From his entry, “Designing for Contagion”:
What makes Points 1-3 work is a human-centered design process. Genuine, authentic stories about offerings that help people get real jobs done in their daily lives are what work. You get there via design thinking, by putting people at the center of everything you do.
I’ll include one of those three points here to get your attention, head over to his blog to read the rest:
1. Begin with Desire: create an offering that will bring value to people’s lives by starting your process with a focus on their needs. Not on your killer technology. Not on your brilliant business model.
The other post (Link) is over on the Creating Passionate Users blog and is written by Kathy Sierra. It’s a nice follow-on to both my comments and the above post. Here’s a couple clips:
Is it merely a coincidence that Apple, run by (as James Gosling put it) “a dictator with good taste” leads the way in tech design, while risk-averse companies using design-by-committee (or consensus) are churning out bland, me-too, incremental tweaks to existing products? And if that’s true about companies, why do we think consensus will work on an even larger scale with “users” in Web 2.0?
“Collective Intelligence” is about the community on Threadless, voting and discussing t-shirts designed by individuals.
“Dumbness of Crowds” would be expecting the Threadless community to actually design the t-shirts together as a group.
Art isn’t made by committee.
Great design isn’t made by consensus.
You’ll recall that I was largely on Lanier’s side in the debate over collective wisdom (reLink). I guess my own experience made that inevitable, because I’ve seen how collectives can work – both offline and online.
There’s also precedent in the idea Ms. Sierra is articulating (“It’s the sharp edges, gaps, and differences in individual knowledge that make the wisdom of crowds work“). If you’re an Industrial Designer and the name Gerald Hirshberg doesn’t ring a bell, I’d suggest doing some homework (Fast Company has a nice article that’s worth a read to get you started – Link). Hirshberg, in his book “The Creative Priority : Putting Innovation to Work in Your Business”, was among the first to point out how “creative abrasion” can benefit development. As Ms. Sierra rightly states, it’s the “aggregation of individual knowledge” that’s powerful; not the results that come from groupthink. When development teams embrace that concept and realize that more than ever in our increasingly commoditized age that they’re working for the Users, the additional step of making the offering “sticky” gets much easier.
via TP Wire Service