What is user-centric design?
Ellen Lupton needs no introduction, and in her book Beautiful Users she once again taps into our design brains to challenge and empower brilliant thinking. Like copy, I believe that great design is created using brilliant strategy.
“Design isn’t simply about beauty anymore. It’s about making things relevant. When designers create products, spaces, or media, they inevitably ask along the way how human beings will interact with their work.”
Effective design is about finding a solution from the point of view of the user. Beautiful Users explores the changing relationship between designers and users and considers various design methodologies and practices, using user research, hacking, open source development, and the maker culture.
Recently, a designer friend and I were discussing whether design shaped the future of technology. Design indeed is very important in today’s day and age. Apple practically invented the concept, and set the bar high for products to look as good (or even better) than they functioned. But their now iconic designs were inspired by Braun products from a previous generation. Nest is one of those cutting-edge designs that had drawn my obsession over the last few years. Designed by Tony Fadell, it’s as beautiful looking as it is wonderfully practical. It goes beyond the perfunctory homage we give to “form follows function”. Instead, it embraces what Frank Lloyd Wright argued for in that “Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”
Nest brings advanced interaction to a basic home device. Smartphone apps allow the user to program the thermostat remotely and to track energy use over time. Yes, I love Nest. There are competitors in this category — namely Honeywell and Ecobee — although I would argue that nestled in great branding and product, is a design that has allowed the company to fly by its competition and feather its own nest comfortably in this early battle of “internet of things” smart thermostats. After all, brilliant strategy without brilliant execution is invisible.