“What’s next?” thoughts from the DRC

by New Idiom


With all of the story lines running through the conversations in and out of the lecture hall, I thought that I would share one that was especially salient for me.

I have been straining to hear the ways that designers’ human centered perspective can have an effect on business since I got to ID. In many ways, I feel that it is the other way around. Design, at least in some circles, may have gotten a little too far into bed with business without completely understanding the repercussions.

Darrel Rhea, CEO of Cheskin, in his opening talk asked “What is next?” He described the value that design offers shifting, basically moving up the pyramid of  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Design moved from making things better to giving people real meaningful experiences. “What’s next after meaning?” I thought. What more can a designer really do? Making meaning even feels like a stretch.

Without knowing it, Continuum designer, Dan Buchner, answered Daryl’s question. Dan’s work with design and industry in Central America is truly inspiring and shows how open and real design can be, not in spite of, but because of the great limitations of the situation. As Dan wrapped up, he said that the cause of the success was obvious, “People just want someone to listen to them. People want to feel valued. And people want to have some power in their own lives.” Almost too simple. Sure it works in non-profit work, but what about real business?

Although he is unsure about the real viability of his venture, Lou Rosenfeld’s publishing start-up is taking a heroic stand on the issue of user relationship. His talk was one of the few times (really the only I can think of) where I heard a CEO say, “Our users are our peers.” It was amazing to see business people, real honest-to-goodness hard-nosed folks, not just paying lip service, but implementing user centered practices in the way that only that kind of person knows how to.

So in answer to Daryl’s question, maybe that is what is next. Design might try to create experiences where the user is actually involved, even invested, in the design process. It is not something that we are going to offer them, but something that users will offer us.