“Holding onto Human while Designing for the Future”
Looking back on this point in time in 10 or 50 years, we will see a clear refraction point at which digital and physical experiences started to merge and created a whole new way of interacting with the world. In other words, how we approach things in this transitional and unprecedented period can have a significant impact on how the future forms.
The “digital revolution” is escalating, and technological advancements in computing, manufacturing methods and materials are reshaping our world at a dazzling pace. On the flip side, this is a great moment to challenge things we wouldn’t dare question before. We have the opportunity to take a step back, to assess the basics of human needs and available resources. We can rethink products, environments, communities, and cities in this new landscape - within which both physical and digital worlds will have things to learn from each other.
Technology does not have to be cold, scary, or intrusive. While many past depictions of a “future world” describe glass devices in all white clinical environments, recent real-world examples of technology integration are more humanistic, simplistic, and conscious. When Sidewalk Labs of Google is envisioning the City of Future, they are looking at using timber as a more environmentally friendly way of building skyscrapers or making recycling more intuitive on the user side. When Amazon is finding ways to simplify the buying experience of frequently purchased commodities, they are creating a physical button that looks like one of an old arcade game console, instead of creating a new on-screen interaction.
I believe this simplicity and preservation of “the human heart” is imperative in creating a successful marriage of physical and digital in the coming era. Also, it is possible to design environments that are data driven, efficient, proactive, and adaptable while answering the most basic physiological and emotional needs of people.
The ingredient of “emotional connection” in a product or service has also proven to be profitable for businesses, mainly because emotionally driven consumer decisions tend to be easier to act upon, and consumers feel more confident about them. As a result, they are more loyal to a brand or product. Apple tapped into this vigorously for years by focusing on experience and making it more “human.” Similarly, Instagram started as just another check-in app until they added photo filters, using the power of artistic self-expression to create a bond of ownership between the users, their posts, and their community. Companies that are aware of the power of emotional connection also focus on design and experience. They position designers at the heart of the decision-making process almost as advocates of consumer and a proponent of human-centered innovation.
As designers, I believe we have the opportunity to take a pivotal role at the heart of these changes driven by technology, angling the trajectory more towards the human. We can do this by designing intuitive, empathetic, conscious solutions, and by equipping ourselves to speak and understand business so we can have a stronger voice in the process.