Timothy Prestero, founder and CEO of Design that Matters, runs a nonprofit that designs products for the poor in developing countries. Mr. Prestero delivers a very interesting TED talk entitled, Design for people, not Awards.
He flips the concept of designing products on its edge, moving from designing for inspiration to designing for outcomes. He tells some interesting stories about products his company has designed that had little impact on the end-user because they were designed for inspiration. Now he approaches design problems from a different perspective, designing for outcomes or designing with the end-user in mind. To achieve this goal his design team needs to collect copious data from the people in the chain; the manufacturer, distributor and user.
He talks about the fact that “high-tech design” does not necessarily work in under-developed countries. Most products that are designed with inspiration in mind, do not usually fit into the under-developed culture in which they are used. Mr. Prestero talks about how he has learned to
Design for Outcomes
First, ask the question, what is a problem that needs to be solved? Then be sure to include the end-user in the data collection and decision-making processes.
Mr. Prestero tells the story of curing jaundice in newborns by shining blue light on them. In designing the most effective device, he learned that the challenge of coming up with the right design was made easier by looking at how the end-user sees the problem. He points out that
users are not dumb, only products are dumb
If you want people to trust the design, it has to look trustworthy.
In design, appearances matters because users do not want to use a product that looks “cheap.” Also, designing a product with the outcome in mind means that you need to be guided by a simple philosophy
Make it hard to use wrong, make the right way to use it the easy way to use it.
Finally, design for manufacturing and distribution. If you leave out the opinions of manufactures and distributors, the product you design may not make it to the user. So he suggests that we
design for actual use.
In concluding he e asks the following question:
Are we designing for the world we want, the one we have, or the one that’s coming?
For the designer, the answer to that question is important. I think Mr. Prestero would say all three.
Designing products, to make a difference you have to design outcomes and that is design that matters.
So, how do his ideas apply to design challenges in schools. For example, what if a school wants to design a new academic schedule? What would the process look like if you designed for outcomes, with the end-user in mind. Is the end-user the student? If so, what would a schedule look like that was designed for students, with students in mind? What kind of data would we have to collect about our end-user and how would we include them in the process? My guess is that the schedule would not be 7 or 8, 50-minute periods a day. Most academic schedules are designed with teachers, curriculum or institutions in mind. While their needs are important, do we end up designing a new schedule with outcomes in mind? Which outcomes?
What are your thoughts about Tim Prestero’s design model?