Designing Inside The Bubble Makes Me Happy

Somewhere I heard the wise (and F-bomb dropper extraordinaire) Daniel Burka say,

“People care about their problems more than they care about design. Solve their problems, and they’ll learn to care about design.”

And that really stuck with me. That post on Twitter from a year ago somehow resurfaced and the following additional comments by Sri Jalasutram are v powerful too.

Every designer at @DesigningUber who has been on an immersion trip can vouch for how eye-opening it is to watch and talk to real users. Designing at your desk is designing in a bubble.

How does this happen? My guess is that the convenience of doing something on your mobile phone or on a nearby desktop machine is so high, is so great, is so unbelievably easy, that the alternative of getting up and going to talk with someone face-to-face outside of your office or workshare is GIGANTIC. It’s inconvenient and it can feel like a complete waste of time compared to how much you could get done by just designing inside your bubble.

I remember when I was a kid, the remote controller for the television set was starting to catch on. It was an amazing device — that saved you the effort of getting up and changing the channel. My parents wouldn’t let us have one — because we couldn’t afford it — but my grandfather had one. It was magic. Once you have magic, why would you ever give it up?

So, I think that the convenience of our digital tools and systems is so incredibly high these days, that doing anything else can seem like getting up and walking ten steps to change the TV channel. Which nobody should have to do, right?

Well, not right at all. Designers need to leave their bubble — or they’ll keep designing for the bubble. I’m now motivated to get out of my bubble tomorrow. Yay! —JM

Epilogue:

“Empathy” gets a lot of lip service in the design world, but @Honor—a company that connects caregivers with seniors needing in-home assistance—makes it a mandate. Every six months, designers at Honor work caregiving shifts them­­selves, doing everything from helping a client get in and out of bed to scrubbing a bathtub. Renato Valdés Olmos, head of design at the three-year-old startup (which was founded by an ex-Googler and is backed by VC Marc Andreessen, among others, and operates in four cities) has done all that and more. He refers to the practice as “Method design,” in a nod to the immersive acting technique, and says it has shaped important aspects of Honor’s app. Turnover among caregivers at Honor is less than 20%, compared to 61% industry-wide. #fcdesignawards [Illustration: @alconic]

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