Human-Centered Design

 The human-centered design toolkit from IDEO (and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has been downloaded 8500 + times from their site here. Including my own personal download. What an incredible document, created from a wealth of experience in the field and determining the best practices for achieving successful outcomes when working with different cultures.

And the design – user-friendly and efficient at the same time. Genius! This is an excerpt from one of the tips from the field guide:

‘Putting yourself in someone’s shoes enables you to get beyond what people say to what they think and feel. Being in-context means gaining true empathy through being with people in their real settings and doing the things they normally do. This kind of deep immersion gives us Informed Intuition that we take back with us to design solutions. We begin to take on the perspective of the interview participant which enables us to make design decisions with their perspective in mind.’

See more of what the folks at IDEO are doing here.

Sitting on a ticking time bomb

I was reading the Pantopicon blog, and this post made me stop and think: what direction is our world really going in? Humans could go in one of two directions: on one hand, there’s a resurgence of back-to-nature practices like yoga, local and organic food, crafting and the popularity of handmade elements in art and design. On the other hand, the rise in social networking sites is breathtaking. But you have to wonder as sites like Facebook, Twitter and others keep folks glued to their computers – are social networking sites actually anti-social? There’s an element of voyeurism, where you can scroll through people’s pictures, see their friends and ‘status’ without ever picking up the phone to catch up!

My husband and I are more of the pick-up-the-phone type people, and ‘hey, want to get a cocktail’ type people. But in the last year we gave in to the Facebook pull, charmed by the ease of keeping in touch and reconnecting with so many ‘faces’. I love Facebook, I must say. In terms of marketing, businesses either join FB, tweet and blog or miss out on lots of customers.

The problem with this trend is the decline of outdoor activity. According to The Nature Conservancy, visits to National Parks are down. Less time in nature means people are less aware of the value it adds to their lives, and they are less likely to protect it. I don’t know which direction the world will go, and like the sociologists suggest on the Pantopicon blog post, if half the population goes in one direction and the other half in another, we could be facing a huge problem, much like sitting on a ticking time bomb.

My solution: I’m going to visit my nearest national park. I just have to figure out where that is ….

(this photo is from a trip to the Scottish highlands)

Good Advice from …

Practice noticing stuff and telling stories. Steve Portigal tells us what we all should know, but is still a challenge. I have for so long wanted to have a blog of everyday observations of life in New York City. I mean, here we are in this place that for many people around the world has daily artifacts of an urban metropolis crackling with possiblility.

I love his advice: “Your log doesn’t need to be conclusive, you just need to be observant and tell people what you think, wonder, or imagine.” This is freedom from being too smart, funny, or witty (which most of the time I am not). Just some everyday observations…

Loyal to the Prius

The CARS program was a government-run solution to get polluting cars off the road by providing credit for the trade-in of ‘clunkers’ towards the purchase of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. In Tim Brown of IDEO’s blog, he posts an image of a Toyota dealership inundated with ‘clunkers’. The majority of these inefficient, oversized vehicles are American-made – specifically Ford, GM and Chrysler. Brown asserts that this image underlines just how poorly the US auto industry has been run for years. 

The reason that the government didn’t support the US auto industry during the program is that most ‘clunkers’ are American cars, and most fuel-efficient vehicles are foreign. I would like to support ‘made in USA’ whenever possible, but until our domestic car companies make sustainability a priority, I’m afraid they just can’t compete. Most Americans drive their cars every day, and these cars have not only drained our pockets but they have contributed to global warming.

American car manufacturers need to take the lead in innovating new viable solutions, and more importantly  people could stop investing unneccesary amounts of their income to pay for gas, and demand greater fuel efficiency for their daily commute.