It’s All About US (The Consumers)


There is way more to designing a product than what meets the eye. I suppose most of us view the process of designing a matter of a designer waving his or her magic wand and BOOM, there’s your product. Well, obviously that theory is wrong, so what truly goes into creating the products we use every day? Norman goes into detail of this phenomenon in chapters 6 and 7 of “The Design of Everyday Things”, and once again amazing me with tons of information I was unaware of before.The first step to getting into the “designer state of mind” is to identify what the real issues are first (if there are any there already, of course). Then, they cannot begin looking for solutions until they have identified the real problem, because a huge part of Human Centered Design (HCD) is putting an emphasis on solving the right problem and doing so in a way that meets human needs and capabilities. This all connects to the double-diamond model of design:

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 2.13.51 PM

This shares with us that designers discover and define to find the right problem, followed by developing and delivering to find the right solution. This model expands the scope of the problem at hand, and dissects the issues into two sides: a problem and a solution. Once they’ve gotten this step down, the next step for designers is the HCD Process (they have even created websites where consumers have the option to do so). In other words, the four different activities that are used to ensure that all human needs and capabilities are met with all products. The steps I am about to mention are done thoroughly and not quickly, in order to make the best possible product for the consumer.

  1. Observation. Designers research about potential customers and consumers to get a deeper understanding of their goals and desires.
    1. This connects with design research (understanding what people really need) and marketing research (understanding what people will buy).
  2. Idea Generation. This is the step where designers look to generate potential solutions and ideas.
    1. Norman suggests to “question everything” and know that there is no such thing as a dumb question or idea.
  3. Prototyping. You don’t know if something is reasonable until you test it–which is exactly what designers look to do (they get creative).
    1.  Prototyping is done to ensure that the problem is well understood.
  4. Testing. The final stage includes gathering a small group who closely correspond to the target population and use them as prototypes.
    1. Get lots of detailed information when the study is over to help you in the future.

At first, when I read these stages, I thought it was just a longer-than-necessary way to make a product perfect. I thought to myself, “this product will never be released to the public because it will take too long to figure out the invisible problems”. Well, I was wrong. Learning occurs when there are difficulties involved. Without difficulties, there is no way for designers to find the real issues, and as a result, they will not be able to come up with the right solutions. It is amazing that we–as consumers–have so much attention focused on our happiness with the products we are consuming. I’d say we are pretty lucky in that sense. And we really have nothing to worry about, because the Human Centered Design is a circular process, so it is a constant cycle that will never stop. After all, we are all what’s keeping designers’ jobs on the market.

In chapter 7, Norman sort of switches gears a little bit and begins to talk about product development in the world of business. After learning about the HCD process, it doesn’t seem like anything could go wrong, considering the fact that designers have nailed the process by going straight through the consumers, right? Well, designers face a greater feat than just figuring out what we want. They have to face what goes on in the real world: business style. Look at some of the issues they have to face daily:

  • Competitive Forces. It’s a big problem.
    • Product developers are always on the move in order to beat their competitors who are likely to produce their same ideas.
    • Most products have a development cycle of 1 to 2 years, so it just shows how hard it is to be quick to produce things.
  • Featuritis. “Creeping Featurism”
    • This is the horrible feeling that designers get when they know the next product they make will have to have the addition of more features that must be more:
      • Powerful
      • Complex
      • & Different in Size

Designers tackle a lot other than just what consumers want, that’s for sure. But as far as they are concerned, it is only going to increase. New technologies force change, and clearly, new technologies are not stopping anytime soon. They are only going to continue to grow and improve through product innovation, which is displayed by:

  1. Incremental Product Innovation
    1. The slow, natural evolutionary process ***most powerful type of innovation
      1. ex: Hill Climbing (testing things out, no matter how slow it is)
  2. Radical Product Innovation
    1. New development; starts fresh

Take this Intel commercial, for example. It is showing its product that has transformed and merged into a newer product through incremental product innovation. Whichever way products are innovated, they all have one common goal: to beat out competitors and sell. That’s all designers really ever want; of course, aside from our overall happiness.

I think it is important for designers, and us as consumers, to remember that although technology changes rapidly, people and culture stay the same. Our need for interactions with others will not change, therefore, our products will continue to be made with that goal in mind. So although we will definitely see changes in the products we use, the touch of interaction will remain in our presence.


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