Until recently, the term design was short for industrial design, sophisticated furniture, and fancy cars. Previous generations experienced the world where thoughtful design was a distinctive quality of luxurious items, a world where those well-designed items were exclusively available to the elite.
Sometimes the design process didn’t stop at the shape of the object; it was also the sensation of coming in touch with the brand. The sales process was designed, the customer service process was designed, and some companies realized that customer experience is just another potential competitive edge. The purchase of a luxurious car, or a stay at a top hotel was thought through to the smallest detail. So the customer longs for this experience and wants to come back and tells others.
There were attempts to popularize industrial design and to provide a broader audience with beautiful and useful items. Bauhaus school or, later on, Scandinavian design went that way. But it wasn’t until the digital revolution that it really became common. Not long after the above-mentioned revolution, the Walkman changed our music consumption. Sony sold 200 million Walkman cassette players over 4 decades. Apple sold a similar number of iPods in less than 10 years. Suddenly well designed products became a mass expectation. A commodity, not an exclusive status sign.
And why mention the iPod? I find this particular item to be the turning point in our approach to design. It was the first popular, daily-used electronic device that was designed in the user-centric paradigm. It was the iPod that was being discussed when Steve Jobs said his renowned words about design:
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. – Steve Jobs
He talked to Robert Walker, defining what makes an Apple product and what emotions are behind it. He described simplicity and comfort as key factors for satisfaction, and great user experience as the goal. His visionary approach took time to soak in. Others didn’t quite follow – Motorola released a phone that was slim. That was it. The sole reason to buy that particular model was its slim body. The market wasn’t too kind to that approach.
Well-designed experience became a fundamental quality for products and services. We now know that those are key contributors to customers’ loyalty. User experience is becoming an overly tight concept; we have been talking about human experience for a while now. As the CEO of uselab, I have been in this conversation for almost a decade. I can see a tremendous increase of understanding of what my job is and why it is important. We are supporting the largest companies from the financial sector, media, IT industry, and retail. Every month we witness the growing awareness of design thinking and experience design. Internal UX departments are becoming a standard for larger companies. The projects we work on are increasingly important and play a more significant role in our clients’ strategy. This growing demand for Experience Design requires more professional designers.
I remember when the entire UX community in Poland could fit into one elevator. We were visionaries, obsessed with something no one paid attention to. This thin crowd paved the way for a large group of professionals. We teach at several universities, we hire new designers, researchers, managers, and analysts. With this new scale of industry we need to talk more about the impact that we have on society. At the end of the day, our job is about improving the balance sheets of our clients.
The question is how we accomplish that goal. How does it make the user feel? What is our range, who will be impacted? The more influence we have, the more we should think about such matters.
UX Poland 2016 – Responsibility in Design
This is precisely why we decided to dedicate UX Poland 2016 to the subject of responsibility in design. This year’s edition will be held from the 11th to the 14th April at the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland. As always, we invited key, global UX experts to hear their point, and to have a close look at the impact of the cases they developed.
We broke this huge subject down into three main aspects:
- Impact: The range of our work, people, social groups and areas affected by our design. The entity behind the design, whether it is a small design studio or a giant like Allianz, should remember that their innovation affects people’s lives, labor and comfort, not just the business.
- Responsibility: A responsible designer remembers their work is their reputation. They care about their users’ experience.
- Good: Like many others in our industry, I feel an urge to help, to contribute. I know my professional skills can solve real social challenges. Designers are dedicating more and more time to make a difference with service design techniques. We work to improve the cities we live, to bridge the generation gap and to help others. UX for Good is a gathering of UX professionals with such an attitude.
We want to look at the UX industry from the perspective of the business that feeds our families and an approach to solving problems. For that reason, we have invited Amnesty International, UX for Good, and Poland’s largest Charity NGO, WO?P. A masterclass workshop will be dedicated to the society-oriented approach to service design.
We want to invite participants to broaden their perspective. Why are we allowing so many social systems’ experiences to exist ineffectively or even when excruciatingly painful? As designers, we owe ourselves the opportunity to fall in love with these problems and mould a response into something better for ourselves, family and friends, neighbors, and community. We must be more human-centered, not simply follow a human-centered methodology. It’s time we leverage more of our skill for an even higher purpose: solving the world’s most pressing social challenges. This is why, one of the talks will examine the unique value and power of designers and design thinkers to impact social change. It will provide case studies, current examples and inspiration for designers aspiring to leave a bigger imprint on society.
Since most of our work is done for our clients, we want to discuss the responsibility in business aspect as well. Together with our partners, Allianz and Asseco Energy, we will hold designing workshops in a responsible manner. We will have a look at the bright and dark sides of design and discus the consequences of having our lives outsourced in many aspects.
Workshops with UX Poland sponsors will have a strong focus on the crucial challenges we face today, like generation change and its consequence. Participants will learn how to design innovative solutions working with Allianz and uselab. The goal is to design solutions for digital natives to support their daily lives – when working, driving, exercising, or following their passions.
Disclaimer: The paragraph entitled “UX Poland 2016 – Responsibility in Design” is promotional in nature. UsabilityGeek has been chosen as one of the official media partners for the event but is not affiliated in any way with the company organizing or promoting it. Regardless, we only provide information that we believe will be good for our readers – the UX community. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Want to learn more?
If you’d like to become an expert in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic, then consider to take an online UX course from the Interaction Design Foundation. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research – Methods and Best Practices. Good luck on your learning journey!
(Lead image source: FirmBee – Creative Commons License)