Why I believe in peopleSeptember 17, 2006
I had a fairly shocking meeting with a man who was supposedly interested in redesigning Youth centres in the UK. This sounded great to me especially because the landscape of childhood now, with the addition of technology, is very different from my own. Growing up in the 80s I only had contact with technology later on in life through my first walkman at age 11 maybe, my first computer at the age of 15 and was introduced to it through school computers when i was young, and then DOS and Windows 3.1 classes in Saudi Arabia. Ok so maybe i didnt have a classic childhood to begin with, but that’s not the point… : )
Now children have access to cell phones at age 6, a computer present in the house from birth, and they probably try to suck on an iPod shuffle once or twice…Age compression they call it in large toy companies, or the changes that children have gone through that make their traditional toys irrelevant more quickly, is an example of this change.
As children grow up, their social dynamics are now shaped by the tools they have: cell phones, texting, emails, chat, online communities such as MySpace (or
With all this in mind you would think that anyone attempting to redesign Youth Centres would be interested , even a little, in the ways that “growing up” have changed. You would also think that as an adult designer, you would want to have a very user-centrered design approach to that problem. Why aren’t joung kids using these youth centres. What is their perception of them. What so they seek elsewhere that the centre doesn’t provide? What would they like out of an urban structure that is supposedly catering to them? Those would be just a few of a miriad of quesions that one could ask kids of all ages. Wouldn’t this be the perfect way to make sure you’re not perpetrating the “patriarchal designer” model… the “i know best” model which has proven to fail and has led to the web-2.0-user-generated- content generation of applications to emerge?
But no. I sat there in Greenwitch park listening to a man who thinks that when designing youth centres “people don’t know what they want”, “children are not my client, society is my client”, “i dont understand the web”, “we need to work with experts in child development”, ” a child doesnt know what it needs to grow up properly”. I’m not saying that i disagree with all of what he was suggesting… but this is such a dangerous approach to take. It was like talking to a product designer who doesn’t know that people use his product. It was like going back in time and as i spoke to him about Fresh Start and experience prototyping, iterative design, etc… I saw how far removed I am from the normal world. I think I need to dumb things down these days for anyone outside of my field to understand me. I’m not sure what this means for me as a professional, but what I do know is that as Ezio Manzini (who I admire greatly) said :
“[Start with the premise that] people are smart” and what you will design with ultimately be better.