Saturday, October 07, 2006

For best design, it takes a village

Designers need to mix with the real-world ...

"George Kembel doesn't talk like a typical teacher. The executive director of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University holds forth at a passionate 100 mph as he shares the latest thinking about the design process. This new methodology is all about getting designers out in the field to shadow their prospective customers, unearth their hidden needs and get them to try one prototype after another until designers get the product right. The so-called "d.school" has just embarked on its second academic year, working out of a temporary facility. Not long ago, Kembel took a few moments off to share his thoughts on design with EE Times editor at-large Rick Merritt.

EE Times: What's the new philosophy in design?

George Kembel: We're moving from design to what we call design thinking. That means taking a more human-centered approach, using a culture of prototyping and multidisciplinary teams to design not just products, but experiences. That's a shift that has a dramatic impact on everything that engineers do, business execs do, designers do and psychologists do.

EE Times: What does that mean in practice?

Kembel: In a project with Motorola, we are looking at the future of mobile communications. In a traditional engineering program you would ask, "how can we design a better cell phone?" You would start with problem solving. Teams would look at improving the antenna or adding storage capacity so you could handle songs. What we advocate is to defer the problem statement. Don't just think about designing a better cell phone, think about designing a better communications experience.

If you start from the design of a better product, you just get a better cell phone. If you start by trying to improve the experience, you get to a place that will be unexpected. That's a critical shift for design engineers. It gives them greater motivation, because they are meeting real human needs. It also gives them insights their competitors may not have."    (Continued via EETimes.com)    [Usability Resources]

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