Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Bottom Line of Experience Design: Q&A with Nathan Shedroff

The role of design in business ...

"The word design means many things, but to people who design for a living, their profession normally breaks down into specific categories like graphic design, industrial design, and information design. Nathan Shedroff is one of the pioneers in experience design, an approach that encompasses multiple senses, usually in a physical environment. As author of the book Experience Design and president of the Board of Directors for the AIGA Center for Brand Experience, Nathan has important insights for those who design experiences with PowerPoint.

Cliff Atkinson: Nathan, what can the field of design offer business?

Nathan Shedroff: At its best, it can offer business a great deal. A lot of business is about measurement and standardization because that helps companies be efficient. It’s also about reducing surprise or ambiguity, because ambiguity is not good in business – certainly at the financial level. Yet if your market is people, people are ambiguous, and people are changing.

The very processes that businesses use to make themselves more stable, are the same things that reduce their ability to understand their customers. A design approach is all about becoming comfortable with ambiguity, and finding new innovative solutions at all levels, whether it’s financing a new division or a product line, finding new places to advertise, finding that new color that people are going to react to, or that new feature that is going to change people’s lives and make your product or your service suddenly all the rage.

So design is a really good source for businesspeople and businesses to literally innovate and surprise and learn new things, and learn about the customers. As long as the design source that they turn to, is about performance as well as appearance.

CA: A number of business thinkers and writers say that design is a critical new skill every business person needs to learn. Overall, are we learning the right lessons from design?

NS: I think things are getting better. Most businesspeople still think of design as an appearance-centric, decorative function that gets put on at the end. The nice thing about the online interaction world, and now the discussion around experiences, is it’s helping to broaden the definition of design and the appreciation for all the components of design, at a business conversation. For instance, if you mention the word design in the general public, the things that come to mind are fashion design or interior design. I think a lot of businesspeople are opening up to having a conversation that’s broader and deeper than just design as decoration. But I don’t think there are a lot of designers out there that are able to have that conversation with them. There are a few, but most of the design organizations aren’t able to have those conversations either."    (Continued via Cliff Atkinson)    [Usability Resources]

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