For the past few years, I've been devoting a large portion of my work time to education. I focused on transferring knowledge and experiences with Interaction Design to my students. The students at the School of Design in Zagreb are what you call classically trained and fall mostly under the industrial / graphic designer category (this is the education I undertook as well).
Although the curriculum is ever-changing (and constantly updated to reflect industry trends), certain issues constantly pop-up and similar problems reappear (albeit slightly altered). This is partly connected to school’s principles, and the fact that educational methodologies are not really, what we would call — agile.
These are the three things that I see constantly resurfacing when mentoring student projects:
- Design is not (just) visual design
- Design with data
- Design responsibly
The three principles can be easily applied with specific actions:
1. Design is not (just) visual design
There is a metaphor I would love to explore in order to understand this easier. Think of design as a person. When you *like* someone, it usually means the person is not just visually appealing but rather intelligent, interesting, engaging, fun / rewarding, delightful and probably a million other things (depending on your relationship and things you find important).
A good design is comparable to a good person.
This could mean a million different things, but the main consideration is going past the aesthetic layer. This trick can help you think of design in a more holistic manner.
Action: Consider design a person
2. Design with data
The first assignment I give my students is to conceptualize and design a fairly simple mobile app (usually an app for notes / tasks / reminders). Thankfully, mobile apps like this (unlike web apps) have a single entry point, usually referred to as the home-screen. Students are thrown into prototyping really fast, which allow time for iterations and just-in-time lectures. More than 50% of students use this home screen to present the IA of the project — they basically put 3 big buttons on the screen.
This is a huge waste of prime screen real estate since there is no dynamic content. Nothing reflects the usage of the app, user-generated content, community, or even the geo-location-time-relevant info. Thinking about most screens as dynamic (vs static) helps with the design process.
Action: Design dynamic screens
3. Design responsibly
Shockingly, a lot of students are unaware of User centered design (UCD) principles. Thankfully, the educational system reinforces syntagms such as “Socially responsible design” but my experiences show that these don’t map well to digital products. Students ask themselves (and me): “How can I design socially responsible if my client is a Silicon Valley based startup? Doesn't this consider a different type of design”. I would argue that responsible in this context doesn't mean socially responsible but rather user responsible. Designing with the user in mind is definitely inline with respect to waste, responsible to the community and the end user, and inclusive.
Action: Design with users in mind
Start with these three principles
To recap, when designing, have this three actions in mind:
- Consider design a person
- Design dynamic screens
- Design with users in mind