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HUMAN BY WONDERLAND #4
A newsletter about design and creativity, and how they contribute to a better world.
Welcome to Edition 4 of HUMAN. In this edition you will find our most recent thought leadership article where we explore how brands like REI and Blizzard have leveraged digital channels for good. We’ve also shared our favourite corners of the internet for the past few weeks, and shared a deep dive into a new design approach that looks beyond the end user.
In Edition #2 of HUMAN we shared Part 1 of an article we were writing about how digital can be used as a platform for change. Now we’re ready to share the completed piece. Building on from part 1, we’ve explored how Blizzard leverages their enormous fan base to affect positive social change around the world, most recently to the benefit of Médecins Sans Frontières. Check it out in the link below.
Google has updated Docs to you give gender-neutral suggestions while you work.
It’s time to design greener skyscrapers, and rethink how we build our cities.
Banks across Europe are being called upon to disclose the CO2 in their books.
Uber has declared that 100% of their rides will be in electric cars by 2030.
New work from Studio Birthplace confronts us with the realities of global plastic bottle production.
Shopify has launched an annual $5 million sustainability fund.
Martin Vargic has visualised the internet as a beautifully illustrated vintage map.
An ethical conundrum borne of the UX-Design era
Authored by the team at Readymag, Why user-centred design struggles with ethics makes a compelling case for a restructuring of how organisations approach design, and a need to shift the emphasis away from just the end user.
It’s no secret that the consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly pronounced with every passing year, and that we as humans are responsible for this. More often than not, the blame is placed at the feet of the usual suspects: the fashion industry, oil & gas, and agriculture, to name a few. However in recent months there has been growing conversation around the environmental impact of the tech sector, seen most recently with the environmental impact of crypto mining, which we touched on in HUMAN #1.
Now, the team at Readymag have made the case for a new, more all-inclusive approach to design that looks beyond the end user.
The benefits and successes of user-centric design (UCD) were realised when designers removed the how does this work barrier for users. In its place, consumers were sold seamless, easy-to-use goods and services, which in turn became a competitive advantage for the designer. In time, UCD became the norm. Think, for example, of how successful Apple was in the early days of the smartphone, or the simplicity and consequent success apps like Uber and AirBnB have enjoyed.
User-centric design succeeded simply because it made complicated technology simple for the layman, ensuring that it would in turn appeal to the masses and spread like wildfire. Now however, we’re seeing the flaws and consequences of UCD.
“The most obvious flaw? What’s good for the user, may be awful for others.” In designing an app or website that tells users where the most popular beaches are, based on web traffic, you potentially clog small towns with unwanted tourism and overwhelm their infrastructure with excess waste. In launching a home-sharing app that makes it easy for people to book holidays in foreign cities, you potentially destroy local neighbourhoods by pushing out residents with rising rental prices.
User-centric design focuses entirely on the end user, with those around the periphery rarely - if ever - taken into consideration. As Readymag argues that the “hidden, indirect stakeholders aren’t represented in UCD”, but they should be. We need to move forward with a more collective approach, one that considers the full scope of the decisions we make. For example, in launching a new website, what is the consequential energy usage and environmental impact, and what steps can be taken to offset and balance this.
The new Bundestag Lawmakers building in Berlin is a good example of this more holistic approach to design. Constructed almost entirely of wood, the 460 modules needed for the building are assembled nearby and transported at night when traffic is lighter to reduce CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the wooden structure will capture roughly 2,500 tons of CO2, with a further 2,500 tons being captured by the trees that will planted to replace those cut down in the first place, over the next 15 years.
Designing for more than just the end user is a logical step forward in our approach to design. As we move into the next decade, with new challenges and tribulations ahead, we need to adopt a design approach that is robust to cope with the struggles ahead. One with have far-reaching and deep impacts, and help to turn the tide for the better.
Created for think tank Centre for London by Studio Cronica, the Your Future London platform allows residents to have a say in the city’s future. The website has been divided into three parts, exploring what Londoners would like to happen in the city, data about London today, and future-focused scenarios for the city.
Studio Cronica approached the platform with two key objectives. The first was ensure the 100-page report could be executed in a more engaging way, and the second was to reach and connect with younger audiences. This was done through “language and content that would not bore them,” and that took into consideration the diversity of Londoners, from young professionals to community groups
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