Design, Big ‘D’ vs. Little ‘d’
Back when I was a student in art school, I had a professor that collected vegetable peelers. He must have owned at least 100 peelers all with different materials, handle shapes, and sizes. Fun fact about peelers: throughout history vegetable peelers have been reinvented hundreds of times with numerous patents taken out for various styles. In the 1800’s alone, 500 peeler inventions were patented. Since the 19th century, the peeler was, for the most part, a product that was designed with a little ‘d’ mindset—focused on product aesthetics over product functionality.
Then in the early 1990s, a kitchen brand named OXO defied the traditional, knuckle-bleeding peeler when they released their Good Grips line. The founder of the company was cooking dinner with his wife, who had arthritis. She was complaining about how the peeler was hurting her hands and asked him to do something about it. The Good Grips line is one of the best articulations of the potential of inclusive design (with a big ‘D’). Design with a big ‘D’, also known as Human-Centered Design, is born out of a deep and nuanced understanding of the people products are designed for as well as the people and processes that bring the design to life.
What is Human-Centered Design?
Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a powerful approach for creating new products by putting human beings first, creating empathy for everyone involved, and making the most of the resources you have available to you. HCD can be applied to both physical products, like vegetable peelers, and digital solutions, including websites and software.
-IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit
How the Mersive Experience Design Team practices HCD
At Mersive, we believe that collaboration and co-creation are critical ingredients in great design. We believe that continuous dialogue and diverse input leads to great ideas. We love sharing ideas. We love passionate debates. We believe deeply in divergent thinking. We don’t work with users. We work with human beings. That also includes human beings in our business. We encourage a participatory design approach bringing our partners in engineering, QA, marketing, sales, writing, into the fold with workshops such as design studios, where a cross-discipline team comes together to sketch, pitch, and critique to quickly cycle through a divergent ideation phase. Another initiative I’m personally very excited about focuses on the onboarding experience for new Mersive citizens. On the calendar for a new employee is a usability study with a member of the experience design team where we take advantage of their unbiased eyes and ask them to complete core tasks related to the usability of our software. This not only expedites the on-boarding process and product familiarity, as well as provides another opportunity to measure the usability of the experiences we’re building.
Beyond internal low barrier testing, we believe it’s critical to get out from behind our monitors and interact with real human beings (aka end users). We recently completed an on-premise usability study with external participants. The feedback from these sessions is vital to how we iterate product design.
There are four necessary steps to the Mersive product design process:
The Business Case for HCD
Companies of all sizes are now recognizing that by taking a human-centric approach to product design and development, they can create successful products that people love to use. The Design Management Institute reports that design-centric companies tracked for more than ten years performed 228% better than companies without a design mentality.
Taking a human-centered approach to design is fundamental to the success of a product. From vegetable peelers to wireless collaboration software, creating products from a human lens will help your products stand out in a competitive market.
Mersive Technologies is an award-winning wireless collaboration software company that facilitates productive and engaging meetings, conferences, and classes by providing intuitive wireless content sharing solutions that enable any number of participants to share content from virtually any device to any meeting room display. Trusted by more than 6,000 corporations and higher education institutions including many of the top Fortune 100 companies, Mersive is based in Denver, Colorado with offices and customers around the world. To learn more, check out The Mersive Advantage.