What UD is Reading - July 2019

A healthy dose of skepticism

Posted on July 31, 2019

Designing for future needs - Ness Wright

All products and services should be designed around the needs and desires of the user, right? These are the principles of human-centred design, which is increasingly gaining traction within governments and organisations all over the world. It’s a compelling framework, grounded in a deep, human empathy for the person you are designing for and genuine concern for their needs.

But what if these needs contradict the needs of future generations? In this post, Ness Wright from service design agency Snook argues that the short-term, human-centred design mindset is what got us into this climate crisis mess in the first place. “Our failure to appreciate how dependent humans are on ecosystems for basic services has lead to us destroying ecosystems we need to survive.”

It wouldn’t be too great a leap to change this narrative. We can use those same creative problem solving tools to design for the long-term instead, taking inspiration from the Welsh government’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and other initiatives. In another great post, Cassie Robinson of Point People has argued for new types of ecosystem or relational design to replace the human-centred approach, recognising the place of the individual within a wider system.

No person is an island, in time or space. Let’s start designing systems that can sustain life for all.

5 Myths About Global Poverty - Roge Karma

If you listen to cheerleaders of modern progress, you’re likely to hear about how the capitalist globalised economy has lifted has lifted billions out of extreme poverty, created a new global middle class and improved lives across the world. Sure things aren’t perfect, they say, but everything is a lot better than it used to be and still improving. In fact, in our very first episode, we featured some ‘facts’ from Gapminder that suggested the global population’s access to health and wealth has been on an upward trajectory since the Industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately, when it comes to wealth there has been a global increase, but it turns out that the facts aren’t as solid as they seem when you start to dig in to the numbers around extreme poverty. Karma’s article is a good example of how being selective with data and calculations can mask reality, and that ultimately facts are only as good as the values that underpin them.

If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Especially if the people telling you are defending a system of hierarchy, inequality and injustice.

Header photo by Kirill Pershin on Unsplash