Cultural Bias

Tools to Jump-start Product Design Process

product design proposal: user groups

I often encounter the Blank Page Syndrome among our clients. They have an IDEA, but find it difficult to translate the nebulous desires into plans and actions that become a business. I hear a lot: “I know what I want, I just don’t know how that gets translated into something tangible.” The problem though is that most times, these individuals don’t know what they really want. And my job as a designer is to do product design therapy to uncover the real needs and separate them from vague desires. There are a few strategies for this (cognitive scaffolding for the design process). From the point of view of the final product, it is important that the client buys into the ideas and makes them their own. When I hear my words spoken back to me a few weeks into the process, I feel more confidant that the final result will be the practical manifestation of my client’s desires. Define the Categories of Product Users When one runs a business, selling products or providing services, it’s important to keep in mind that in most cases it’s not about you (typical mirroring error). The products and services have to appeal to end…

Extreme Hypocrisy

Gul Meena, 17, left her abusive husband in Pakistan for another man. Meena's brother hacked her friend to death with an ax, before turning on her.

On the same day as I read about Gul Meena — a 17 year old Pakistani girl who was almost killed and severely maimed by her own brother — I bought a pair of skinny jeans. When I got home, I noticed they were made in Pakistan. I think I don’t need to say more… Gul Meena, 17, left her abusive husband in Pakistan for another man. Meena’s brother hacked her friend to death with an ax, before turning on her. Skinny Jeans Made in Pakistan

The Tone and the Interface

2013-03-21 Cheese from Farmers Market Amsterdam

I just returned from a brief visit to The Hague and Amsterdam. When in a foreign country encountering an unfamiliar language, it’s easy to focus on the visual presentation of content since the linguistic portion of the presentation is unavailable for processing. People who can read can’t help but do so when presented with text. But when one can’t process the linguistic content, all that is left are visual clues (and smells and sounds…). So I took a few snapshots to show how the tone of the interface impacts the emotional processing of content and attitude of the customer to the content. Selling Cheese in Amsterdam This is a farmers’ market stall in the middle of Amsterdam, selling home-made cheese. The woman in the photo is the actual cheese maker. Note the hand-lettered signs, the simple wooden boxes, the plain presentation — the overall effect is home made goods, care in production, quality product, even made with love. Fancy production values would just be off putting in this context, and probably result in lower sales of cheese. This NOT a museum, but rather a neighborhood cheese store in Amsterdam. (It is located next door to the flower museum…). What is…

Perceptual Blindness in Design

Toy Packaging and Design Fails

It is not always users that fail to see some particularly “cool” aspect of design, failure to notice which leads to failure in product use. Designers are people too and are just as prone to cultural and perceptual blindness — total inability to notice additional (sexual) meanings hidden in their designs. Below are examples that I’ve been collecting from email forwards over the last few years. The general groups are toy packaging, store signs, logos, religious strangeness (especially with cultural shifts in time), product labels, and in particular strange dentists’ ads… Enjoy! Thank you all who contributed to this post!

Forgetting by Design

Why Mothers Scream email forward

I get a lot of email forwards…don’t we all? And just the other day I got one that I have seen many times already over the past few years… Usually, you look, you smirk, you move on. But this time, the photo got me thinking: that poor kid — he has no memory of this shot, but he will be remembered for it for the rest of his life! The shot has long ago slipped from the close circle of sharing that his parents intended it for and has been widely distributed through out the world. Someday, this kid might even get it as mail forward himself: an adult man looking at a silly embarrassing moment that got away… Information with Expiration Date Somehow, I don’t imagine that getting “an image that got away” of oneself would be a source of continuous pleasure. One might want to forget the whole thing… And it is not just images — although having images with expiration dates would be very valuable — there are loads of information that should be forgotten by design. When my generation was growing up, the silly and stupid things we did didn’t end up as data for public…

Cultural Differences or Child Abuse

Russian parents Aleksander and Anna prepare to bathe their 2-month-old Viktor in icy water in St. Petersburg, where the air temperature was 27 degrees. Viktor obviously prefers hot baths. Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky, Associated Press

We view the world through our own personal and cultural filter. We can’t help but do that. But put us in another cultural frame or time period, and we might be horrified at what we might witness. Consider this image: This baby is only two months old. And the people about to dip him into the freezing waters of St. Petersburg’s lake are his parents. I’ve been to this lake. I saw my own dad do the dip. He was a grown man at the time, and I still thought it was crazy. In Russia, the folksy wisdom is that such dips are good for you. But here, in U.S., the parents would be arrested, their son taken away by child protective services… It’s all relative! And here’s a few examples: /blog/2011/01/cultural-differences-or-child-abuse/