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People as the basis of product and service design



Successful product and service design is based on an understanding of the life and every-day experiences of consumers. Product and service design should begin with a serious consideration of the issues arising from interaction between people and technology. That way the end result will be products and services that genuinely make people’s lives easier and thus improve their quality of life. These sorts of products and services are also easy to use. For companies, they can even be a unique selling point in international competition.

Good design is based on an understanding of the lives of people – the consumers – and the harnessing of technology to improve their quality of life. This sort of design is called human-driven interaction design.

According to this design principle, technology is not the end in itself of a product or service. The starting point for good design is not technological innovation. Instead, technology is seen as a tool for people. That is why design of technological applications should also begin from people.

In human-driven interaction design, not only is the usability of the product and service scrutinised, but also the method of use and the culture in which the technology or its applications are used. It is a question of the comprehensive link between technology and people’s activity.

There is an emphasis on the early phase of product development in design. Right from the beginning, designers attempt to consider people’s everyday life and habits and use these to inform the way technology is harnessed to support people’s activity. The perspective is thus on people.

This holistic approach means that designers do not simply look at a product’s or service’s immediate purpose and context of use when designing. Instead, innovations and technology are developed with a view to the added value technology can bring to people’s lives.

In the first phase of product development, the focus is on knowledge produced by the human and social sciences, rather than purely technical knowledge. This perspective on human needs, grounded in an analysis of life and every-day practice, guides design all the way from the definition of user requirements to the creation of a prototype and eventually the end product.

Human-driven design increases demand for the products, and with it, commercial success. It can also be a unique selling point for companies in international competition. However, Finnish companies have a lot of work to do in developing human-interaction design procedures in their design practises, particularly when developing services. In developing games and mobile devices, we are already quite successful in international comparison.

In addition to sheer usability, form and user experience, Finnish companies should pay greater attention to the role of technology in people’s lives when designing.

Form, usability and user experience create a framework for a product’s or service’s immediate use. For its part, interaction design creates a culture of use for the product. For example, the iPod music player was a revelation in terms of function. It established a new way of listening to music. Of course, it was also a revelation in terms of usability and form.

Naturally, in addition to human-driven design, there remains a need for technology-oriented product design. Both routes can lead to workable innovations, knowledge and know-how that ultimately improve people’s quality of life. Examined from an environmental perspective, for example, it is easy to find examples where an understanding of people’s activities and needs alone will not suffice as a starting point for progress in research and technology.

But technology-oriented product design will also need to take greater account of people’s behaviour and activity at an early stage. This also concerns design of products and services for business to business purposes. After all, their users are people, too.

A book on design that responds to the interaction between people and technology has been published. The book is based on the results from the multidisciplinary Theseus project. The book People and technology. Good interaction design is aimed at all designers, researchers and students in the area of product and service design and human-technology interaction.

The aim of the Theseus project is to take utilisation of psychological knowledge in product and service design to the next level. The initiative is focused on both the application of psychological user studies in design work, and the development of new methods and processes in the sort of design that responds to the interaction between people and technology. Together with companies, the project develops new interaction design and innovation methods.

The Theseus project’s research partners are VTT, the University of Jyväskylä, and the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT). In the first phase of the project the corporate partners were Nokia, Konecranes, Ramboll Finland, the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries, Axiell Kirjastot, Buildercom, Iittala, Metso Paper and Patria Vehicles. In the second phase the corporate partners are Nokia, Ramboll Finland, Konecranes, the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries, Kone, Vaisala, Buildercom and Iittala.

The international research partners are the University of Granada,, the University of California, Stanford University, University of Adelaide, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Glasgow, University of Bath, and Florida State University.

The project is funded by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, and the participating organisations.

People and technology. Good interaction design. Pertti Saariluoma, Tuomo Kujala, Sari Kuuva, Tiina Kymäläinen, Jaana Leikas, Lassi A. Liikkanen and Antti Oulasvirta. Teknologiainfo Teknova oy 2010. (The book is written in Finnish).

For further information about the publication
Teknologiainfo Teknova Oy
Marketing Manager Kristiina Kaski
tel. (09) 192 3382