For this week's Forum Frenzy, an aspiring designer asks our knowledgeable audience of designers about their day-to-day:
"As someone thinking of getting into design I have a question: as a normal designer how much ability do you have to make designs fit your taste? How often do you have to completely disregard your taste in the design process? Do you ever have the opportunity to be free to do whatever you want (within reason) like an artist?"
As iab notes in this discussion board, having projects that match perfectly with your own passions are probably quite rare:
"Even if I were to be a customer of that design, my input is n=1. The companies that hire me usually have a minimum of a $50MM market potential for a product they want me to design. Since I won't spend 50 million annually on their product, hopefully you can see that my taste should never drive the design. Through user research, there is a possibility the design could match my tastes, but that is yet to happen in 25 years."
The original question, although simple, does lead us to some interesting thoughts and counter questions. The truth is, working designers do often have to design for a different type of consumer, but what is the ultimate advantage of designing for someone different from yourself? What can you learn from these experiences?
If you are a designer, you have a unique perspective on human empathy in that your practice relies on understanding not just audiences but individuals; and oftentimes, individuals with very particular behaviors or needs. This focus on individuals presents certain challenges—for example, how can you relate to someone who has clear physical differences or emotional needs?
Simulation gloves by Cambridge's Engineering Design Centre that allows designers to experience usability of products as someone with arthritis.
We've seen several recent examples of empathetic innovations like Cambridge's inclusive experience kit for designers or interesting case studies such as Japan's Work Life Promotion Campaign illustrating interesting ways designers can work to understand the people they are creating products for. So what can these examples teach us how to look at designing for people unlike ourselves?
What are some key takeaways you've gotten from designing for different users that have improved your work? What design research tips do you have for aspiring students to promote empathy and understanding in designers so we create better, more intuitive and relatable products?
Contribute to the conversation in the comments below or on the original discussion board!