Changing the power dynamic in a designer-user relation

Designers often end up enforcing their own design choices on the users. This results either in the users adapting to the design or them hacking their way through by finding workarounds. Jane Fulton Suri, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at IDEO, has written a book, Thoughtless Acts, in which she has compiled several real world observational examples of these workarounds.

It made me wonder if there could be opportunities for giving users more, if not equal, control over the design of some existing systems. Following are a few design concepts from a brainstorming session.

Design Concept # 1 Restuarant ambience

Normally, a customer in a restaurant can choose only the food. Mostly, he/she doesn’t have any control over the ambience like the song being played. Idea is to empower the customer with some control over the ambience by embedding technology in the dining table that lets the user place a request for a new song. The restaurant can then play the customer requested songs either depending upon the majority or in a queue. Because of the embedded technology the customer doesn’t have to get up from his/ her seat and they are not compelled to download any app.

Design Concept # 2 Device Manual

An appliance’s manual is normally physical, rigid, has linear information. It doesn’t consider user’s expertise. The idea is to create a manual that will allow the user to control the sections which he/she wants to visit. Using this augmented reality app, the user can point towards one part of the appliance and an appropriate help section shows up. Thus, the user goes through only the essential and required parts.

Design Concept # 3 Movie Theatre

The current seat setup in a movie theatre doesn’t give a similar movie watching experience to everyone in the audience. Idea is to create a circular room with the seats arranged in a concentric circle. The movie will be projected on the ceiling in a way that it takes into account one’s viewing angle. Thus, the experience of movie watching remains same for everyone.

Design Concept # 4 Classroom

In normal class setting usually the professor delivers the lecture content in a pre-determined order. So students find the flow difficult to follow and often are ashamed or scared to ask questions. Thus they often seem to be lost in class. The idea is to leverage mobile technology to establish communication between professor and student in an anonymous and faster way. Knowing that some students didn’t understand the concept, the professor re-explains and the lecture content delivery is changed on the move.

Design concept # 5 Space for social gathering

The number of people a room can hold depends on the actual physical size. It becomes difficult to accommodate more people into the room. Also, occupying a larger room is not an option as it can result in a waste of resources. Idea is to have an expandable room that can easily expand or contract depending upon the number of occupants. Another potential application could be overcrowded trains.