To suggest that design by definition is simply the practice of creating something, be it physical or otherwise, would be to disregard the most important element of the process. As stated in the aforementioned quote by Todd Johnston (Forbes, What Is Design? Unlocking The Genius Within, 2014), a successful designer regardless of his or her field, must value the targeted individuals needs equally to the aesthetic component of the piece. It would be foolish to suggest however, that a sole designer would be knowledgeable enough to consider each individual’s needs as well as to empathise to an extent that allows him or her to produce an exemplar design solution to the problem at hand. Due to this, strong emphasis must be placed in both the practice of working within a multidisciplinary team, and exploring the problem through the application of user centred design. Dependent on the task, this might involve the use of empathy suits and subsequently appropriated personas and a working knowledge of the seven principles of universal design.
User Centred Design
User Centred Design is a term used to encompass the process of applying an understood knowledge of a user’s limitations, requirements and desires to solve a proposed problem. This often includes approaching a design with an empathetic manner, to produce a solution that is both creative and analytically based. Through the very nature of the practice, the concept of a sole designer being knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions about the requirements of the targeted audience is challenged. The application of such may be brought about due to; a poorly defined problem, a lack of information and understanding or the desire to identify the core problem on a more engaged and personal level. This design approach may also often be strongly linked with the study of ergonomics, as the overarching intent is to design for a person, not to fit a person into a design.
Throughout the developmental cycle, a toolkit of user centred methods can be used to gain insight into the required subject matter. This may include the use of empathy suits - both physically produced and conceptually applied, the use of the seven principles of universal design and the use of personas. Through the implementation of such techniques (of which are later discussed at length), stages of the design process can then be successfully evaluated with a far higher ratio of success. One method of doing so is through the use of usability evaluation. Although a technique primarily focused on digital design, its core message can be applied to all areas of design successfully as a means of understanding the overall user satisfaction with a product. This includes assessing how intuitive a design is, the level of ease with which a user learns how to use a product, it’s efficiency, memorability, error frequency and subjective satisfaction. Often, if any field results in negative feedback it can be assumed that a targeted user had not been...