The designer’s gaze
The Designer’s gazeExpanding from these concepts, we can reflect on how designers also have a ‘gaze’ — a power they wield over ‘users’- the people being designed for. We do this in more than one way — by creating ‘others’, by being unaffected by our designs, and most importantly, by being in creation mode by default.From our first encounter with the design process, we’re taught to observe with the intention to identify ‘problems’ that can be solved. This is the beginning of the designer’s gaze — looking at the world around us not with the intention to understand, but with the intention to solve.Let’s even look at user research, the empathy-generating essential aspect of the design process. And as a UX researcher, I’m guilty of this myself, a hundred times over. Design research artefacts, like personas and research reports, in the name of generating empathy for the users, actually contribute to the ‘otherisation’ of the people being designed for. Consider the term ‘user’ itself — what empathy does it generate by distilling the context of a human being? We use the phrase ‘you are not your user’ and ‘the user behavior is….’ and create ‘personas’ as if the user is some strange creature that is nothing like you — the designer.Nearly always, the ‘opportunities’ identified are solved additively — via the creation of a new physical or digital product. Designers who are always coming up with new products are lauded for their creativity and productivity, but as a community, we fail to see beyond the first and second-order consequences of our designs.Thinking systemically, we know that most of our current problems are caused by the solutions we created for the problems we previously had.Some very simplistic examples:↳ Food delivery apps make it easier for people to access any food at any time, thus, creating new consumption behaviors that can impact their health.↳ The precarious work conditions of ridesharing drivers, created by the aggressive market expansion of ride-share apps that, in turn, was created by gaps in public transportation.↳ The convenience provided by services and social platforms comes with a high cost on user privacy and opens new opportunities for harassment. Thus, designers, more than other people, need to step back and understand the consequences of adding a new product to the ecosystem it will exist in. To visualise and speculate how the world will change in response to it. Designers don’t always have skin in the game, so most adverse effects of their own creations don’t really reach them. This makes it easier to become careless about what we’re making, and to take risks where things can go either way.A design affects more than just the original problem — it affects the way people think and behave in the world. And as much as we may debate on the nuances of things, like the ability & need for exercising self-control, that people have agency in their lives. The truth remains: The unintended consequences of our designs also have the same effect on the world as the intended consequences. » Read More
Like to keep reading?
This article first appeared on doc.cc. If you'd like to continue this story, follow the white rabbit.