When designers don’t look to challenge their assumptions…
As cliche as it sounds, understanding the “why” behind your product and a users motivation to buy or use said product is essential. Yes, I just used Simon Sinek but this is a rant so it’s allowed. As vague as this statement may sound I believe that products that are designed around humans and their needs will always feel more natural than those based on aesthetic and a desire for recognition. Unfortunately, the line between human centred products and aesthetic based ones is blurred and it should make us wonder:
If a product wins an award for it’s design does that make it “good design”?
I mean, it’s nothing new that designers will design and release concepts, illustrations, animations or more solely for recognition and I see absolutely no problem with this, I do it myself, like many others and it’s normal. The problem however, is that the way we communicate these ideas as a community is misleading. The focus is placed on aesthetic rather than practicality or human need and this results in concepts that feel empty because these concepts are based on needs that have been milked from biased research or made to seem bigger than they are.
Perhaps what irks me is the knock-on affect this has when seen in education and not the designs themselves. Design students look up to these products, they see them winning awards and it literally becomes the goal to design a product for an outlandish need like cold wrists at your desk with no regardness to if anyone would actually buy it.
“If the need is niche, it tickles some sort of innovation fetish, everyone shares it, and the cycle continues.”
What we actually see are products based on niche needs and not consumer behaviour — not the needs of humans but the wants of a designer, those designers who go looking for others to agree with their assumptions rather than challenge them. This isn’t good design, despite however many awards these products may win we should be challenging them not praising them.