We anticipated an environmental crisis of the future, but the pandemic brought it immediately home to us. We faced vulnerability, and suddenly had to act to sustain our lives now.
We thought that we had the technology and knew how to use it. However, the pandemic turned that belief upside down. Extremely personalized human issues of survival and comfort presented themselves. To address them, we needed the perspective from the real, natural world, not from our artificial human-crafted one. For designers, that means their empathetic, human-centered approach is more relevant than ever.
Design’s purpose has always been to improve people’s lives by humanizing technology and the built environment; not just the physical, but the emotional, psychological and symbolic, too. The designer’s journey is a deep dive looking closely at our humanity, contradictions and complexities. In designers, people are the material of transformation.
The Design Studio I lead has an initiative called Design for Life. It consolidates design research, insights and best practices to allow a new form of design practices to emerge – more sustainable ones.
We seek to forge a new perspective with tool kits, methodologies and social guidance, and apply this new perspective using a collaborative virtual design platform to facilitate the transformational journey of designers. With a rich and inclusive space for collaboration, the platform creates effective dialogue between design and science and reinforces a human-centered design approach for more sustainable impacts.
Design already incorporates substantial methodology; but designers like to experiment with new tools and prove the value to themselves. Designers also engage collectively in co-design activities with others, requiring a more diverse workflow, and that often leads to new, unexpected outcomes.
What is missing today are easily accessible, everyday tools that show designers the impacts of their designs on society and the environment. With its focus on people and collaboration, the platform for virtual design pulls us into an environment for sense-able (based on attributes of our human senses) and sustainable design. It accesses the emotional through tools that include emotional mapping and mood boards, along with science and engineering – which empirically prove if the senses are accurate.
Wherever gaps or disconnects appear when we connect technology and humanity, we must use human behaviors to guide those moments – how people think, feel and act. When we do that, it opens up surprising new intersections that turn imprecise inputs and fuzzy logic into well-defined actions for smart, creative design decisions.
This is the new domain and playground of the sustainable design practitioner, the role of someone who brings together the concepts of human-driven design, but also thinks about “If?” and “Why?” a design should be done from multiple perspectives. Those are very important questions – more than the foundation of creating a design, and never more relevant a tool kit and a methodology for the sustainable journey of design.
Anne Asensio is Vice President, Design Experience at Dassault Systèmes