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The Unsketched Perspective

Anyone who’s completed a course in design or architecture will be only too aware of the importance of perspective. They’ve also probably spent hours studying vanishing points and horizon lines. Whether it’s one point, two point or three point perspective, there is one perspective that is often overlooked: The user’s perspective.

The user’s perspective is not something that can be easily covered by sketches, renders or photos and instead requires us to get inside the minds of our clients, our clients’ clients or customers. In an industry where innovation is key, the client’s perspective can be the influence that makes or breaks your product.

Where can a perspective take you?

All too often, ‘research’ can become something of a box ticking exercise. Whilst items like brand name, brief and budget are important areas to cover with a client, this is no more a comprehensive understanding of a problem than speed dating is of a potential suitor. Instead, the only way to get under the skin of a project is to immerse yourself in it.

This can actually be one of the most enjoyable parts of a project. In fact, for our work with ADV, we had the opportunity to go back to Primary School to embrace the life of school children. The GEO stacking chair was the result of months of research, design, development and immersing ourselves in the issue. The design not only complies with the European Standard EN1729 Parts 1 and 2, but also actually promotes children’s’ ability to learn. The waterfall shape supports the lower back and encourages good posture. This is not only vital as children grow, but contributes to their overall health, as well as attention spans. The range of colours and finishes, options for upholstery and swivel versions, as well as the fact they can be stacked ten at a time assist both the child in any learning environment and the teacher in ensuring this environment is clean and tidy.

Gaining perspective is not a chore: it’s a privilege

Whilst it’s certainly not for us to tell others how to do their job, it is true to say that if we consider research a boring, then it’s likely we’re approaching it the wrong way. There are few other careers that enable one to experience such vastly different lifestyles as one can through design. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure the perspectives of these people are represented at the forefront of product innovation. More often than not, we come to the realisation that their demands are parcelled with our own.

Take our work with wheelchair manufacturer, Nomad, for example, who approached us to create a new active-user wheelchair for their customers. You would be forgiven for believing when it came to disability aids, the user would want something as discreet us possible. Research revealed it was less about discretion and more about fitting into the user’s lifestyle, allowing the wheelchair to become a part of their character, rather than the definition. The final result, the MRK1 Wheelchair, combines visual simplicity with engineering elegance. Superior attention to ergonomics gives the user comfort and a smooth ride, enabling the freedom and independence anyone would ask for.

When to speak, listen, and when to just watch

Clients will rarely lie to you. If you’re designing a product that’ll make their lives easier, chances are they’ll want to help as much as they can. However, the part that distinguishes the designer from the consumer is that a designer is able to transform things that are problems into life-changing products.

This takes a little more than simply speaking to a client. When we took on design for Brushdoctor, our market was DIY – people who wanted to create the perfect home environment for them. Upon interviewing these clients, they all talked about the same problem – the brushes could only be used for a short term before they became stained, were generally reserved for one or two colours and had to be carefully disposed of to avoid mess. Logically then, the solution would’ve been a brush that was more easily disposed of, right? Right - but it can be made far more innovative. Instead of making one-or-two use brushes that could be easily disposed, we designed a method of cleaning the brush that meant they could be used repeatedly and for longer. When it was finally time to dispose of the brush, renewable materials made for a more eco-friendly process. Give a DIYer an easily-disposable brush and they’ll paint for a day. Design a brush cleaning system that allows them multiple uses and they can paint for as long as they please.

Everyone is a business partner

There are several different ways to go about designing a product, none of which are right or wrong. What matters is the end-consumer plays as big a role in your process as any investor or client. Immersing yourself in the life of a consumer not only allows you to tailor a product to their problem, but ensures the longevity of your product by solving problems they didn’t even know needed to be solved.