Inhuman Centered Design
When I run into obstacles moving through the world, it’s not uncommon for me to start swearing like a sailor and question the sanity of the architects or the others involved. Judging from my friends and family’s choice language while driving, this is common, especially in the world of transit.
Every system is imperfect and has flaws, but it fascinates me how they appear so different from different angles. When I’m a driver in an area I know well, the UPS trucks and Ubers that stop in the middle of the lane seem inconsiderate. When I’m in a new city trying to get my bearings or a getting out of an Uber with a bunch of bags, the drivers angrily honking behind seem unnecessarily rude. When I’m biking, the mom pushing a stroller across a crosswalk at a sloooow pace is an annoyance. When I’m walking, I’m like “CALM DOWN EVERYONE”. Even between walkers, groups of people who take up the whole sidewalk having a great conversation drive me insane when I want to run, and that speed walker coming up behind me when I’m on a meandering stroll with a dog stresses me the f@!# out.
It’s a difficult system, where needs of different people going different places at different speeds must all be considered. Safety is a goal, but so is efficiency. What about accessibility? And enjoyment, focus, connection. We can’t optimize the system for just slow moving groups of chatty pedestrians or just zippy bike commuters, which would make it dangerous for another group. But how are we prioritizing the needs of each group? And why do we get so upset when we’re inconvenienced in this unavoidable process?
So many of our systems are human-centered design. When we run into obstacles, maybe it’s not a flaw. It can help to ask ourselves… who is this designed for? There are a lot of competing needs and a bit of empathy goes a long way in any direction.
We need to understand that human-centered design isn’t always about the human in our shoes. Being inconvenienced doesn’t always have to ruin your day or make you suspect idiocy. The architects had their reasons. It just wasn’t for you.