Designed Life

Sunday October 8th, 2006 in ,

As we continue to surround ourselves with technology, we live an increasingly designed life - you could even call it life as a user experience. Come to think of it, through the products I’ve used in my lifetime, I’ve tapped into the creativity and knowledge of thousands of people I may never meet. For example, there’s 1000s of parts in my car, each one carefully designed by another human being. Imagine for a moment, if you can, the faces of the people who created the products you have used in your lifetime. Your computer, cell phone, TV, stereo, car, all the things in your house or apartment, even your home itself. It would be an army of people the size of which you wouldn’t believe.

Seeing as I’m a product designer, I realize that I can have an impact on other peoples lives. I’m fortunate enough to live in a society where basic survival is no longer my biggest concern, something I share with the people that will eventually use the products I help design and build. As a result, much of the product design has moved from survival and needs based to the creation of needs - the little things that make life better and more enjoyable. It’s essentially about thinking up stuff that users never could have imagined, but can’t live without:

The world never needed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it. The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need. ó Louis I. Kahn

In some way, design itself has become an outlet which fulfills a basic human need: the need to create something, to leave a mark on the world.

Common sense dictates that we should listen to the users when we design products, but when we’re creating something that users have never seen before, we can’t just ask them to describe what they want. We want to create the next big thing, the next killer app, but this will only happen if we build something that is truly useful. Now imagine how useful the first telephone was, before copperlines spanned cities and continents. Yet, somehow the telephone changed the world and how we communicate, one phone and copperline at a time.


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