Defining Design: Planning for People
Design is defined as:
1. A plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made, the art or action of conceiving of and producing a plan or drawing
2. purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.
Everyone knows the first half of that definition. It is everywhere now: in the cars we drive, the phones in our pockets, our laptops, and so on. Most consumer products now give, at least in part, attention to the aesthetic design.
However, the second half of that definition is the most important, and is too often forgotten when developing a design. The intention behind a product is just as important as the product itself. When creating a product the designer needs to have a clear picture of his or her audience and the impact that he or she wants the product to have.
At most design schools, they hand out a problem and say “Here, go solve this.” I’ve created a suitcase for wheelchair users, a screwdriver for woodworkers and mechanics, a device that picks eggs up off the floor, and many others. All of these projects aim to train the student to identify the user and define the key requirements based on said user. The student knows generally who they’re designing for, but it is easy to fall back on the knowledge that it’s just a school project. There is never a thought spared about what would happen if they took their product to market. No one ever stops to think, would this have any real impact on my users?
When I started my Design Internship with D-Rev this summer, I’m not sure what I was expecting. The reality did not match my expectations—but in the best way possible.
D-Rev is intensely focused on their end user. They literally have a 10 foot by 10 foot wall dedicated to how their products have impacted their users.
Even after seeing this, I don’t think I truly grasped how user-centered D-Rev is until I sat in my first staff meeting. Almost every other sentence was about what everyone could do to have more of a positive impact through their products. D-Rev describes itself as “User-Obsessed.” You might think, “Oh, they’re just trying to be unique and quirky and one-up the competition.” But I can tell you, they undoubtedly and consistently earn the title.
D-Rev’s New Product Development process always starts with the user. That’s the immediate first thought on everyone’s mind. The Product Development team spends months on user surveys and intense need-finding before even thinking about what the product is going to be. They then narrow this field through careful research to find an area worth investigating.
Because D-Rev is a non-profit, it doesn’t measure its successes in net profit or quarterly earnings (or whatever business-y terms apply here), it measures its successes in people’s lives it has changed for the better. As of June 2016, D-Rev has improved 155,794 lives through carefully constructed user-centered designs.
I’ve always thought that design meant bringing about a powerful change through your ideas. A great deal of new designers want to be the next Steve Jobs, but new design students should look up to D-Rev’s product developers; they are actually changing the world through the intent behind their product design.
D-Rev has touched more than 150,000 patients’ lives with carefully constructed, user-centered designs.