Over the last two weeks, I read over a sample of work from Emily Pilloton, Victor Margolin, Jane Fulton Suri, Chris Le Dantec, Jodi Forlizzi, Don Norman, Bill Gaver, and Liz Sanders.
Each of them presented a different point of view on empathy, design research, and how much involvement with the user affects their output as designers. I found most of their views to be equally valid depending on the context of the research, with the exception of Don Norman’s work which was a provocation to the larger design community.
While reading through their works, I was tasked with placing each of these designers’ views along a spectrum of my choosing. Many competing ideas came to mind, but ultimately I found the spectrum of Niche versus Scalable to be the most interesting.
The alphabet soup you see in the graph are the initials of the authors.
I found that in general, that if a designer chose ‘Design With’, their results felt more substantive. However they were also more niche, more tailored to the users in their particular circumstance.
What particularly struck me about this arrangement is not where the authors landed, but where they did not. It provokes the questions how can one design with their users but also achieve scale, and what happens when one designs for and is niche?
For the latter, I feel that it starts to fall away from design and more into art. Is there a design patronage system? If so, it would fall into that corner.
The former is much more compelling and speaks to me of Buchanan’s ideal of the liberal art of design. Can we engage a large community and yet maintain the intimacy and empathy needed to create meaningful artifacts?No Comments »