SmartPlanet's got an interview up with Pattie Moore, one of the mothers of Universal Design. Most of us that have gone through ID programs learned that way back in 1979, when product design was a lot less enlightened as a field than it is now, Moore began disguising herself as an elderly woman and traveling the country to learn firsthand about the challenges she'd face as a result of poor design. A resultant Reader's Digest article and Today Show coverage put her three-year project on the map and added an important element to the industrial design profession, most famously encapsulated in the Smart-Design-designed Good Grips line of products for Oxo.
Today Moore runs MooreDesign Associates, and in addition to doing research and consulting, she lectures at schools all around the world.
Here's a snippet from the interview:
What makes good functional design?
Design can't just be about the technology, the material science, the widgets and wow factors. It has to be holistic, it has to be human, it has to speak to us. We know the perfect little black dress when we see it. Everyone's in search of the perfect mattress and has their special favorite cup. Things become an extension of what we're able to do.
So design is a combination of technology and know-how and sensitivity and know-why. It's like pornography--you can't really define it, but you know it when you see it.