Designing for humans the IDEO way: A parable from Palo Alto
A credit card that rounds all your spending up to the nearest dollar and automatically puts the difference into your savings account. “Keep the change” is a neat little idea that lead to hundreds of thousands of new accounts being opened at Bank of America.
How to make recycling more fun and save time in the garden while you’re doing it? Seeds embedded in compostable packaging are a cute reminder there is life after the trash can – a tangible way to highlight the real benefits of composting that could also lead to some unexpected garden growths.
From the humble egg whisk to the shopping cart, from the first smart-phones to children’s play toys, there isn’t a field in which IDEO have not innovated. This company has an incredible talent for understanding how real people solve real problems. Humans are undoubtedly intelligent creatures but understanding the nuances and occasional contradictions of our behaviour requires a particular skill. Even sophisticated and intuitive touch-screen units sometimes need a low-tech alternative to suit the realities of daily life. A room-booking system that clearly shows availability as you peer down the length of a corridor because the lights are mounted in a particular way; this user-friendly solution was designed for busy workers requiring instant feedback for last-minute availability.
Thought Den visited the IDEO campus in Palo Alto, CA in October. Over the course of an hour Danny Stillion, Senior Interaction Designer, did a fascinating show-and-tell, demonstrating the sheer depth and breadth of the company’s output. There is of course an incredible heritage of success in this company, facilitating an abundance of touch screens, break out spaces, project rooms and prototype materials that ensures the creative process is free-flowing and robustly supported.
1) The power of a holistic and human approach – through research and observation you can thoroughly understand the challenge, to the point the solution will present itself.
2) Share and communicate – everyone has something to add, whether tea-boy or the lead technician, and facilitating this knowledge transfer is essential in nourishing a productive ecology
3) Surround yourself with the tools to prototype and play – pens, paper, curiosities and widgets. Make stuff and test stuff. Then make stuff better and test stuff harder.
4) Have an incredible account handling and sales team. Natch.
Rarely have I seen such emphasis on observation and research, the importance of testing and iterative development that thoroughly involves the target audience. Solutions that work because they were informed by and engineered to improve day to day life. But IDEO’s considerations don’t rest solely with the end-user; a firm grasp of the commercial imperative means every solution has a well-formulated and effective strategy for return on investment. So the real magic seems to be in treading the fine line between satisfying both parties. Genuine reward for users and commercial success are not mutually exclusive because a win-win situation is the least we should settle for. Get that right and the cash-monies look after themselves, right?
If you’ve got some cash-monies, we can help you innovate and build real human connections.