The Evolution of Product Design: Designing for the Human Experience

Bose sleepbuds | Bose + Astro Studios

Consumer product design requires a blend of function, experience, trend and technology, but it always starts with a desire to understand who you're designing for and what you can do to improve their HX—as in, human experience. At Astro Studios, we dialog, define, design, develop and deploy as part of our 5-D process, consistently syncing up to discuss consumer needs and wants, not to mention brand needs and wants. 

Put simply, Design in the Fifth Dimension (as we call it) means accounting for a more soulful, transcendent relationship with the products we create. We spend most of our time living in a three-dimensional (3-D) world, while often viewing information in a 2-D world. But in modern product design, we often design for a 4-D world, considering how a product will perform over time and through space, affected by unseen forces like gravity, atmosphere and other people, as well as wear and tear. Now, thanks to the advancements in technology, we need to consider a 5-D world and design in a space which accounts for prior dimensions while also adding in predictive technologies like AI and IOT, all with a view toward building human interactions and relationships and a simultaneous view toward history and future impact. 

Here's a quick list of considerations which should be made when considering the human-first, consumer-side of designing the tools we use day-in and day-out.

Product design must reflect the brand itself.

In order to create holistic, fully satisfying consumer properties, you need the name, brand and identity system to be in sync, often magnifying the product's design. At Astro, we see the brand position, identity, ethos, colors, etc., as core design elements which lend themselves to any successful consumer product. Without the branding and brand context, the products often feel incomplete. Classically speaking, is a Mac a Mac without an Apple icon? Nope.

This is why we believe in designing consumer goods holistically, considering naming, branding, packaging, digital, UX and UI at the same time, to influence and align for a total commercialized HX. 

Design must fuel emerging tech.

Emerging technologies are frequently driven by a need to solve a problem, as opposed to exploring and pursuing applications. Design will often take a technology slated for one problem and apply it to a myriad of possible applications, often by placing the technology within a desirable human context. For example, a smart bracelet that can sense your activity by combining a series of emerging technologies, such as wireless, flex circuits, and accelerometers, is functionally powerful, but if it doesn't pass the fashion test, it may fail to reach a broad enough audience to become a viable business. So it all boils down to design, as the fuel for commercializing emerging tech, especially in consumer markets. 

Right now, you'd be hard-pressed to design new tech that doesn't at least reference or take into account virtual reality or augmented reality—but they're fundamentally different.

VR takes you into a fully closed, alternative view, while AR overlays your reality with additional information or effects. These new technologies allow brands to connect with consumers on a deeper level, with the most successful tech enabling brands to deliver on their primary promise, and also provide a little extra, often with personality or character, without annoying or getting in the way of a desired pursuit for the end consumer. If this is achieved, then a relationship, much like a new human friendship can evolve. Just think of the love you have for your fully customized mobile phone, partner, buddy, accessory, brain or companion. Good design can create some (hopefully positive) codependency. 

It all boils down to human advocacy.

Throughout the industrial design process, we have to play the role of human advocate, with an ultimate goal of improving HX. Products that are easier, more intuitive and delightful to use hold the hallmarks of good industrial design, enhancing our environments and our lives. Good industrial design provides its end consumers with a personal expression and identity beyond the functional purpose, hopefully creating brand loyalty at the same time. 

Human understanding matters, too.

Technology is a big bubbling collection of advancements that is outpacing broader human understanding. This creates several things, from concern and fear to apathy for the rise of machines, big data and big tech, and also creates a range of new opportunities, many empowered by the information age and moving rapidly into the distributed, community-controlled, experimental, democratized space. Setting aside the criminal, governmental and potential for horror, the future will require more opportunities for design—which is a great thing.

Profile picture for user Brett Lovelady
Brett Lovelady
Brett Lovelady is founder and chief instigator at Astro Studios.