Systems Thinking: Past to Present, Design in the age of Biology!

Traditional vs. Contemporary Design
Past design language and systems  have focused mainly on creating products.  The language based around this type of product driven economy were mainly nouns consisting of shapes, forms, colors, and space. Contemporary design is starting to incorporate the needs of the user to create effective solutions for businesses and nonprofits.  In order for a business to stand out and gain a competitive edge they need to adopt a new model of user focused design, not just product driven design.

User Driven Design
Business are focused on staging their products through a service driven experience where the customer may have many different interactions with the same product.  For example, with a service that I use in Austin, called Car2go, there are multiple touch points.   A touchpoint is all the different points in time that you interact with a company or brand.  I can open up my mobile phone to view where the nearest Car2go car is.  I can then confirm or book the car and receive a text message that lets me know the transaction occurred.   Once I have entered the car I have the ability to use their gps system and park the car in the multiple different free parking spots they have around the city.    There are many more touch points with the use of the Car2go, so they have thought through the experience from the perspective of the user in great detail.

Nature Driven Design
Another area where design is moving toward is biomimicry.  Biomimicry is a study of nature and using the behaviors and characteristics of biology to affect design.  One example of biomimicry is Columbia’s Forest Product which uses the natural adhesives that a mussel uses to stick onto the hull of a ship.  They developed a natural adhesive, formaldehyde free way to construct plywood products.  By observing nature, designers will gain ideas and inspirations that allows us to see a whole new set of opportunities, whether it be new textures, patterns, sounds, or smells.   Each species has a unique trait that has evolved over time to enable survival.  When we can take the time to observe these species, they offer rich insights into designing new products and ecosystems.

In conclusion I believe the design community as a whole is moving in the right direction.   Focusing on customer first to gain insights into the needs of a community in addition to mimicking nature as ways to create new design solutions is a big step forward.