While the terms 'internet of things,' 'smart objects' and 'connected devices' seem to be regularly splashed across the pages of newspapers, design briefs, crowdfunding campaigns and conference topics—relatively little is discussed about what tools designers need in order to design smart devices.
Some startups and corporate departments are beginning to understand how the inclusion of technology in our everyday lives is changing us. With this realization comes changing demands for product teams looking to innovate. This usually includes designers working alongside engineers and software developers, oftentimes with a new set of tools to match. Among the tools already available to designers, many of the emerging industry standards have come from Dassault Systèmes. Dassault Systèmes has long recognized the cross disciplinary needs of designers and responded with several solutions, allowing for the creation of holistic design experiences, not just products.
As product teams become more interdisciplinary, the process for creating products has expanded to include engineers, scientists, developers and many more key players. As the requirements of designing change—so does the process of design thinking, adapting to what Dassault Systèmes has named 'Social Ideation.' Social Ideation is the method by which the iterative process is expanded beyond just including designers. Each phase of ideation can be visualized for not just the design-savvy, but for all members of an interdisciplinary team.
To make tools for social ideation not only work, but work fast, precise and for team members with different competencies is a big task. To understand what is needed, we asked someone who has been linking design methodologies and fostering collaboration in multidisciplinary teams for years, Anne Asensio. Asensio, came from General Motors and Renault to join Dassault Systèmes in 2007 as Vice President of Design Experience. She sat down to share her view on the need for social ideation across disciplines and the new responsibilities of designers in the next generations.
Anne Asensio, VP Design Experience at Dassault Systèmes
Core77: Is the consumer expectation for experience over product a recent occurrence?
Anne Asensio: This is something we have seen coming from quite some time. People have always been interested in this notion of experience because it's part of our lives, but now when we are talking about the experience it's because I think that we have passed the time for just producing products for functional aspects of life in the new economy. We must begin looking at a much higher level of expectation.
The digital effect is that everything is now contextualized. Digital devices with the capacity to be customized and configured can now become a little personal space that you can immerse yourself into anytime you want. It delivers this notion of being part of that moment and that's a different expectation in terms of experience. What we are seeing is an accelerated view of the natural evolution of human experience due to the digital devices that are transforming our lives.
What kinds of tools are necessary to design these experiences?
What I am personally interested in is design experience. You might ask what the difference is between design experience and experience design. In experience design we have seen an incredible expansion of design methodologies and practices in the area of digital design. The act of just designing through screen-based software is necessary for designers to do the work they needed to do—that is, to humanize the relationship between man and technology.
But I believe that the world of design is not just to help humanize the evolution of technology—I believe we have a particular aim, which is to question where we are going on a broader level, to create designed experiences. To do this we have to bring meaning and question the type of experience we are providing. Especially now that technology gives us the total liberty and expertise to do anything, bringing with it a high level of responsibility.
"We have seen an incredible expansion of design methodologies and practices in the area of digital design" says Asensio.
So has the designer's role in multidisciplinary teams changed?
Designers have always been serving this function: acting as a contributor among a multidisciplinary team while bringing their own perspective. But today, designers help everyone visualize what they are doing collaboratively in order to make decisions—that is quite new. What the new tools are doing is enabling two aspects: the capability to not only design, but also to represent and the ability to see what others are doing in order to help them reduce risk and uncertainty.
This is absolutely critical when it comes to making decisions about new products because it helps people embrace disruptive innovation—not because they are coming up with better ideas—but by allowing for synthesis. Now you can combine the capabilities of teams into a physical or virtual medium and share progress throughout the whole process. This model can be continuously transformed—it can keep being changed. You have the perfect subject to apply the typical design methodology of iterations—test, fail, change, and do it again.
What are the big challenges facing multidisciplinary teams?
I don't know if I would say challenges or opportunities. The fact is, what you see is a convergence of digital technology and a convergence of very interesting capacities that are coming from different industries. For Dassault Systèmes, we come from the formalization of the product and we extend it with physics, simulation all the way to imaginaries and meanings. to reach the point where we can embrace more team members in the process and get something very complex to be seen, interacted with and visualized.
What is really key is that wherever you come from, whatever meaning you are looking for, we want to allow anyone the ability to deliver their vision of the future. That is very important because right now, team members can be accused of not being transparent, and I can see a way in which everyone will have a stake in the way we are designing the world.
"We are not at a moment where desginers need to return to their capacity to project ideas, both imaginary and visionary" says Asensio.
You mean they will have a stake in it because anyone can have the tools?
All of those capacities that were designed and developed in a particular area of application—be it manufacturing, design, science, entertainment etc.—are now merging. That convergence, we see today in the Internet of Things. All those aspects are just something we are visualizing today—it's a way to see what's happening, and react.
I believe that today we are looking at something more forward thinking, more visionary. Basically asking: we have these capabilities, but where do we start? How should we be innovating and why? What would be the best way of innovating, embracing some questions that are more on the social and not just the technical side. Answers are not going to only be found on the technical side.
What abilities does the next generation of young designers need to help find those answers?
We were designers before the industrial era. Everyone was a craftsman or artisan with the ability to make a beautiful, signature object. The industrial era then put the designers into a different situation—they must humanize. Some designers were able to push to the level of questioning, in a critical manner, how the objects produced by the industry were affecting our society, our lives, our ethical approach of living our condition as humans. Now that era is done. We are now at a moment where designers need to return to their capacity to project ideas both imaginary and visionary.
That leads me to believe that young designers need to not only establish themselves in their role of humanizing technology but critically question what is happening. It's no longer what you're going to be doing—but what you're going to be. Period.
Thanks to Anne Asensio for speaking with us. To read more about Dassault Systèmes Solutions and Social Ideation & Creative Design, check out their website.
Teshia Treuhaft is a Michigan-born designer. Upon graduating from back-to-back degrees, a BFA from the University of Michigan and MFA of Furniture Design from RISD, she moved to Berlin to pursue a research project considering shifting paradigms in design education. Teshia currently works at the tangible UX startup Senic.