Sunday, 1 June 2014

Can We Afford to Not Design For People?

At the beginning of this year, Frosty and I were approached by one of our friends, asking if we would be interested in getting involved in starting up a Western Cape Chapter of Engineers Without Borders South Africa (EWB-SA). This is something that I'm so SO excited about and I will definitely keep you informed on how things go with getting things off the ground.

As one of our first major team-buildings we are going through a 7 (ish) week course that is all about Human Centred Design (HCD). This is a free course that is offered by +Acumen, which is a branch of a non-profit organisation who aim to tackle the issues of poverty in a way that is most beneficial to the people who are being helped.

The first session got off to a great start. It definitely opened up our eyes to how difficult it can sometimes be to obtain a solution to a seemingly simple problem that will be used by the people you're designing the solution for. I think one of the biggest thoughts that it triggered in me is:

In our communities, businesses and own lives, how can we
ensure that our objective "people oriented" design?

It's a question aimed to spark discussion and thinking. I don't know the answer. What do you think?

I've only had a chance to breeze through the rest of this course, but let me tell you, I think it's going to be amazing! Looking at design from a more "human" perspective is something that has always fascinated me.

As engineers* we are so often told that we were taught to think. But thinking only gets you so far. Often, designs are brilliant, but don't get adopted by the people they were meant for because of some small factors that have a huge impact. I'm really hoping that this course will help me both personally and professionally. By the end of it, I hope my design thinking has been broadened and I will be able to come up with designs that make people happy.

*We have two guys with non-engineering BSc degrees as part of our team and interestingly, they ARE taught to design things with people in mind a lot more than engineers are. I find it incredible that this is the first time we've had these types of discussions with them, seeing that I've know these guys since 2nd year! I can't wait to see what else we'll be learning with this!

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