Interior designers are great at bringing together colour, materials, products, lighting, spatial elements, etc etc, to create a space suitable for the situation. Popularity in getting this part of design right, “interior design”, has exploded in the last few years thanks to all the DIY and renovation shows out there.
But just like any other designer, they too can sometimes miss the point. And what point is that I hear you ask.
That point is: When we design, we design for people. Full stop.
HCD, human centered design, empathy, perspective, people first design, personas, whatever you want to call it, can take many forms depending on what you are designing. With interior design, that can mean functionality and practicality. Factors which are easily overlooked when beauty and aesthetics dominate.
In today’s example we will look at a bathroom (the room that keeps on giving). In the photo above, you can see a small bathroom with neutral tones and decent facilities.
Now, let’s take a look at 3 interior design decisions, which did not take people into consideration:
- Useless towel hangers
These towel hangers are terrible, you cannot just hang your towel and go. No, when you perform the action of hanging a towel, you need to concentrate on the action. You need make sure you carefully place the towel. You need to make sure you place a sufficient amount of towel on the holder to ensure it stays. You need to watch the towel, wait for it to stop swaying, to again, be assured that it will not fall off. You need to dedicate time and effort just to hang your towel.
There are two design fails here. 1. the initial designer of the towel “hanger”, and 2. the interior designer that decided to use it.
This design fail could have easily been avoided by simply remembering who you are designing for, people. And what to people do with towel hangers? They hang towels on them. So what should designers do? HANG TOWELS ON THEM!
If both designers had simply tried to use the hanger, they would have realised how useless they are, and subsequently redesigned them, or chosen another one.
2. Water collecting shelf
This shelf might be useful when having a bath, you can put candles on it, your book, your iPad, whatever. But once again, taking people into consideration, you realise that the shower is going to be used a lot more times than the bath. But when you use the shower, this shelf pools with water. And it’s not just a bit of water, it literally fills edge to edge with water.
And the water ain’t going anywhere. It just sits there. So again, if the designer had done what people do, ie. take a shower, they would have realised the problem. Sure not everyone can build a complete prototype of a bathroom, but hey, foam models and cardboard go a loooooong way. Even mentally going through the motions can help in understanding your design decisions. Put yourself in your users shoes and do it. Physically or mentally.
3. Not so nice view
esthetics and beauty dominate bathroom design. From this point of view, yes the bathroom looks nice (opinions shminions). But if the designers had once again, fully embodied their users, they would have at least sat in the bath, to simulate an action their users will take. They didn’t even need to take a bath (though that is highly recommended, if possible), they simply had to sit in it. And this is what they would have realised.
This is the user’s view when taking a bath. This is the view a person experiences when they are probably most trying to enjoy their bathroom, relaxing, de-stressing, taking in the colours, the ambience, the environment, the peace.
Shall we spend 5 bucks to cover up this light? Nah, what for, no one will see it…
The view from down here is nothing like the standing view. Yes, I did say that more standing than lying happens in this room, but lying in this room takes on an entirely different psychology. And that is the point of human centered design.
See, by designing with the human at the centre, not only do you consider the practicalities of your design, but also the state of mind of your user, their view, their psychology, the ergonomics, the feelings, the sensations, everything (well, a hell of a lot more than simply spinning it up in AutoDesk).
So what’s the lesson? It’s simple
When designing for people, DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE PEOPLE.
This bathroom example is from a hotel room I stayed at. So not only is one bathroom flawed, but over 300 bathrooms, in the one building, have bad design….
Damn, that’s a lot of bad design…
Sorry for the long article, I normally stick with one bad design per article, but I thought I’d kill 3 birds with one stone.
Citizenrod | art | design | think