Is Good Design a Result of Science, or an Evolution of Ideas?
Innovation is all about people. And the world of innovation is a world in which humans define what is new and accepted and embraced.
Innovation is all about people. And the world of innovation is a world in which humans define what is new and accepted and embraced. So, yes, human interaction is essential when we innovate. And, yes, again, 21st century innovation has to be people-friendly.
Unfortunately, though, because so much innovation today is trans-disciplinary, not every innovator in every discipline understands that innovation is people-centered. They think about science scientific discovery or technical specifications that drive design, aiming at business models that were defined before design starts. But these specifications have to revolve around how people will experience innovation when they encounter design. Understanding the patterns of how people adapt design to their needs can shape a completely new strategy for business and development. People centered design becomes the driving force for responsible and successful innovation.
For me, any innovation has to fit into people’s daily routines and lives. And, for me, the human element is the measure of all things innovative. I want to make the world work better, and technological innovation that reflects the needs and desires of people who will be affected by change is a means for this.
Take computers, for example. By themselves, they’re just impersonal boxes, and they can’t do great and meaningful things unless we design them to be really usable. Here’s a good case in point. When the Three Mile Island nuclear accident unfolded, the operators in the control room couldn’t make sense of the data presented to them because the system showed them all data at once, regardless of how data elements were related and what mattered in critical instances. So, the accident ended up being worse than it might have been if the computer systems were designed to provide meaningful information in context.
Which brings me to two central questions for innovators today -- “How do we represent information so it makes sense to people, taking into account the situation they are in and what they want or need to accomplish?” And “How do we show users the information they need and when they need it, and in the form they need so that they are able to act?”
[Ken Segall, who worked closely with Steve Jobs, created Apple's "Think Differently" campaign as well as the i-naming convention beginning with the iMac. Here he answers the question all Apple customers are asking.]
This is the province of Interaction Design. And, as the Three Mile Island episode illustrates, it’s often a matter of making the information actionable so that people can be kept safe, whether at a nuclear reactor, during wars, or in airplanes. Also in medicine and aviation, when designers have to have to work with practitioners and engineers to understand the conditions at work in order to innovate -- and innovate with regard to human life.
Participatory design in work settings emerged in Scandinavia in the 1970s when industry and worker unions collaborated on fielding new information technology in the printing industry. Today participatory design approaches help shape urban development, transporation, education, and healthcare. Although the term Designing for People was coined by the Industrial Designer Henry Dreyfuss in the 1950s, it would take another four decades before people-centered design approaches gathered momentum and were brought to the attention of virtually every organization world wide, including the corporate sector, start-ups, non-profits and even government, by the San Francisco based design firm IDEO.
IDEO’s designkit.org website presents a number of recent examples of people centered design practices, methods, and case studies. In its essence, people-centered design is empathic design where designers and researchers move into the world of the people whose lives will be affected by design. In contrast to the old world, Henry Dreyfuss was convinced to pay attention to the people that were confronted with technology; design today can be initiated by community representatives that are connected with the real needs of people. As connectors, they serve as a bridge to facilitate the work of designers with people in need. People centered design works to better connect people with the world, opportunities, and possibilities around them.
That’s why I believe that some of the best innovation is pragmatic innovation. What makes sense, and what is it good for? What difference does it make?
Much of the past century’s design debate has focused on the aesthetics of design. Based on visual aesthetics, clear understandability, usefulness, and usability, good design is beautiful desirable. But besides looking great, design has to go beyond this by being appropriate, based on understanding exactly who people are, what’s at stake for them, and how they’re living their lives. In other words, how will the innovation actually help them impact the world?
[Bill Nye explains how design and manufacturing are coming together to create amazing technology]
The form that design takes is changing from the creation of novel artifacts and representations to the integration of new systematic connections in existing hardware structures. Think about it this way: In an industrial scale innovation context, the idea of novelty was still bound with the concept of creating new products to be produced and distributed with the intent to replace existing products, despite the fact that what they replaced was still working. The car industry and rapid and costly replacement cycles for entertainment and computing hardware are poster child examples for this wasteful approach. New systems-oriented service design approaches have countered this development. Über and Car to Go have provided individual transportation alternatives as a service model. Combined with networked public transport that can be monitored in real time from mobile devices, transportation on demand has many of us reconsider the ownership of a vehicle altogether. Streaming content such as Netflix and Spotify, based on cloud computing have affected how we own and use computers, entertainment electronics, and media. The emergent Internet of Things (Think Nest, Drop Cam, and Amazon Echo) goes several steps further, providing seamless connections between people, products, and environments to shape entirely new forms of interaction. Surprisingly, most of these innovative new platforms were not driven by large corporate design strategies, but are some of the most successful examples of design output from small start-ups that were able to commit to new ideas because of their compact organizaton. In their essence, these services enable new patterns of use and new types of content that emerge in older hardware structures. This has real impact: Smartphones replace laptops, and as processing from smartphones moves increasingly into the cloud, replacement cycles for mobile hardware will slow down, potentially resulting in more universal, valuable, and reusable products that are accessible to a broader audience.
Innovative design is different from science. Design doesn’t usually start with a problem that requires a solution. Instead, innovative design is hypothesis building for what ought to be – what might be promising in the next stage of a given situation. Designing requires challenging inititial problem statements and digging deeper to identify the real issues. This analytical stage of design can employ scientific methods, but there is more to it. Shifting analysis to synthesis means engaging in exploration. Designing is studying adaptations in the world by changing the world. Design innovation presents new opportunities and ways to do things differently. And then the problem of getting people to change and adapt arises. Innovating is hypothesis testing. Design innovation casts light on unknown territories that the designers didn’t consider. To address the resulting limits of the design, redesign is necessary. Fixing design problems (that wouldn’t exist without design) generates design knowledge. Innovation is a bit of a Pandora’s box in this way – at the same time it’s not so different from how evolution works.
So, after you’ve designed something new, you are handing it over to people to make it their own – to find the breakthrough’s meaning in their lives and make change useful. You have designed it so that it can be adapted to a variety of uses, including those you would never think of. What you have overlooked leads to user-initiated work-arounds. Stay with the product and observe these adaptations. If cutting-edge equipment doesn’t work the way doctors want it to, for instance, they might tweak things to function in a more useful manner, use it in a different way, or not use it at all. Aesthetics play a role, too. If a product is beautiful, but hard to use, people will opt out. But if it works and looks good, they will use it over anything that works the same but isn’t designed with the same quality and aesthetic standards in mind.
Apple’s products demonstrate this: Their technical performance is comparable to their competitors, but they embed this technology in great Industrial Design that sets the benchmark in the market. People feel connected with their products and identify with them. Other companies can get here by taking design more seriously – and invest in the design of how people experience their products and make them part of their lives. Think about it this way: Well designed products are being resold on ebay, regardless if their technology is outdated. Mediocre designed products become landfill—and we have enough of that for generations to come.
Being a great innovator today means staying ahead. Many times, when we innovate, we are creating newness based on our previous or current understanding of the world. We don’t always innovate based on our projected world-view. So, it’s essential that innovators keep up with how the world changes as they grow, expand, change or move in new and unexpected directions and dimensions and be a step or two ahead. Design is providing a vision of the future that defies many traditional engineering approaches. You can’t test what doesn’t exist yet and we need new ways of thinking to address challenges of unprecedented scope. Design makes a difference.
To be a great innovator, then, you have to do things – bring people together, explore ideas and experiment with different forms of realization. But you also have to be an exceptional reviser when you see early on that ideas don’t play out the way you expected. In the end, we’re dependent on fresh innovation that addresses the unknown and the unstable side effects of prior breakthroughs. That’s the realistic -- and truly human -- way that innovative cycles work on behalf of people.
The University of Washington believes that nurturing boundless innovation and creativity empowers students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners to create a world of good. Through the Innovation Imperative, the UW is creating inclusive solutions to society’s grand challenges. This article is one in a series commissioned by CoMotion, the UW’s innovation hub. To learn more from UW innovators, visit uw.edu/innovation. Axel Roesler is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Interactive Design Program at the University of Washington.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Hungarian cartographer travels the world while mapping its treasures.
- Simple idea, stunning result: the world's watersheds in glorious colors.
- The maps are the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs.
- His job: to travel and map the world, one good cause at a time.
The world<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUyNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzU3Njk1M30.rRdZpcl0bfVi4oBsljHdZSbcX0New9rdLcx6fr2mD7Y/img.png?width=980" id="f982a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fa67421340f881d5ab91463514cf9a6d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Can you spot the world's ten largest drainage basins? In order of magnitude: Amazon, Congo, Nile, Mississippi, Ob, Parana, Yenisei, Lena, Niger, Amur. Image source: Grasshopper Geography
Africa<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUyNi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTI2MzI0MX0.OeTS-scZwBES4AlZAan7fBlaBkznkig5hPjgcd1j6hw/img.png?width=980" id="e987c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d3a8999ed4071a123b30efc5652fee9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Africa is home to the rivers with the world's second- and third-largest catchment areas: the Congo (in blue), with a basin of 1.44 million square miles (3.73 million km2), and the Nile (in red), with basin area of 1.26 million square miles (3.25 million km2). The Nile is the longest river in Africa, though (4,130 miles; 6,650 km), followed by the Congo: 2,900 miles (4,700 km). The Congo River's alternative name, Zaire, comes from the Kikongo nzadi o nzere ('river swallowing rivers'). Image source: Grasshopper Geography
Europe<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUyOS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTkzOTMyMH0.tq5fjnq8wvLqXY0C9gzfoUd0ahOAQ7IZQxbpVnC1FdY/img.png?width=980" id="a8ec4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1ce5f59691501103343e080905ce74a3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Volga (in yellow) is the river with the biggest catchment area in Europe (just under 545,000 square miles; 1.41 million km2). It flows exclusively through Russia, and the catchment area is entirely within Russia as well. Europe's number two is the Danube (in orange), which flows through 10 countries — more than any other river in the world. Its drainage basin (just over 307,000 square miles; almost 796,000 km2) includes nine more countries. Image: Grasshopper Geography
Germany<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUzMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzk4ODA3Nn0.qX1sOfJWAI7TUbTQCiIob-R5p4_wj299wEtrYAUREmg/img.png?width=980" id="d5efa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8e73c53d75840f21b4f2ca4b8a1e7f51" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The hydrographic map of Germany is dominated by just four major drainage systems: the Danube (in orange) in the south, the Rhine (in blue) in the west, the Elbe (in purple) in the east and the Weser (in green) between the latter two. In Antiquity, the Rhine was the border between the Roman Empire and the Germans. Rome once attempted to shift the border to the Elbe, which would have radically altered the course of history, but it suffered a massive defeat in 9 CE at the Teutoburger Wald (roughly between both rivers). Image: Grasshopper Geography
Great Britain and Ireland<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUzMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTk2MjM3MX0.nDy__OLIyC1arty4_2xd54fjTzmfsIZo-2pe5QRjjA4/img.png?width=980" id="31a6f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d089f66097f37a10ab854eaccdac3581" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Both Ireland and Great Britain are islands, as a result of which neither boasts a continental-class river. Twenty of the 30 longest British rivers are less than 100 miles (160 km) long. The longest river in Britain is the Severn (220 miles, 354 km), its catchment area shown in blue in the southwest. Ireland's longest river is the Shannon (224 miles, 360 km). Even combined they're not as long as France's Seine (483 miles, 777 km). Image: Grasshopper Geography
United States<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUzNC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDYyMzEyM30.7S_83dA6bcLyID_7BhH1R_OTy61tpgDZrBMQ_iPwnjM/img.png?width=980" id="a879d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a7c74a7b5a7887fb2d13b40d5d96223c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Spread-eagled across the central part of the United States, the Mississippi's drainage basin covers all or parts of 32 U.S. states (and two Canadian provinces). The easternmost point of Ol' Man River's catchment area is really far east: Cobb Hill in northern Pennsylvania. Here rises the Allegheny, tributary of the Ohio, which in turn flows into the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois. Image: Grasshopper Geography
Washington State<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzU2MzM4OH0.mniqbkEQq84rNaWOQIl4fB4mOhNdJf5WactNyE_VsyM/img.png?width=980" id="adc4d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="97eb5a5add49c06ef00ff0bca812b380" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Even leaving out the Mississippi, there's enough going on in the rest of North America to keep the eye occupied. Here's a drainage map of Washington State. The big fish in this much smaller pond is the Columbia River (drainage area in blue), the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. Only in the western third of the state is there a colourful counterpoint, in the multitude of smaller river basins that are draining into the Pacific or into Puget Sound. Image: Grasshopper Geography
Australia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUzNi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTM0ODM2NH0.U7vckwnoNoxf-bk8SuYO246hNMpR2zXILILsd4pas9o/img.png?width=980" id="38c2b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0c44d30d61c6cb94b8d5c7205cbabd58" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
At 1,558 miles (2,508 km), the Murray is Australia's longest river. It is often considered in conjunction with the Darling (915 miles, 1,472 km), the country's third-longest river, which flows into the Murray. The Murray-Darling basin (in blue, in the southeast) covers just under 410,000 square miles (1.06 million km2), or 14 percent of Australia's total territory. Don't let that spidery network of river courses in the interior fool you: Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent (Antarctica, bizarrely, is drier). Image: Grasshopper Geography
Russia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTE0MjUzNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzg5MzIxOX0.WhShHLjjWdEh4FF_OZsY1oTN3Vc77X29TbMYbVHrHqA/img.png?width=980" id="f5cee" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="53acd93f1ab67be979e6ab128c144ce6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Four of the world's largest drainage basins are in Russia: the Ob, Yenisei and Lena (origin of Vladimir I. Ulyanov's nom de guerre, Lenin) entirely and the Amur, shared with China. The Volga may be Europe's longest river, but 84 percent or Russia's surface water is east of the Urals, in Siberia. The sparsely-populated region is traversed by 40 rivers longer than 1,000 km. Combined, the Ob, Yenisey and Lena rivers cover a drainage area of about 8 million km2, discharging nearly 50,000 m3 of water per second in the Arctic. Image: Grasshopper Geography
The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.