Smashing Conf: The Design of People

by Luke Wroblewski September 10, 2013

In his talk at Smashing Conf in Freiburg Germany 2013 Nishant Kothary shared the underlying reasons design projects fail (cause of people) and what we can do about it. Here's my notes from his talk The Design of People:

  • There are lots of hairy problems involved in getting Web sites built. We rationalize failures with lots of reasons for why we fail. But the real reasons for failure are humans.
  • A deeper understanding of human beings and how to influence them is a technical skill that can be learned. The design of people impacts products more than anything else.
  • Logo redesigns reveal issues in typical redesign projects. Stakeholders prioritize their own perceptions above those of the professional. Why do they do that?
  • Social conformance: 35% chance that people will knowingly conform to the wrong answer. Group think can take over quickly design reviews.
  • When we redesign logos, we are meddling with people's identities and thereby attacking them. When we people, they attack back.
  • Neocortex: is the high-order rational thinking part of the brain. Amygdala: is the reptilian or lizard part of the brain -it deals with threats. The Amygdala puts the Neocotrex to sleep to get us to safety -no need for higher level thought. When we attack people, rational behavior is put on hold.
  • A logo redesign fails for much more subtle reasons and root causes then we recognize. From issues like social conformance and an instinct to attack back.
  • The purpose of a pitch for a logo design is to transfer people's ideas from the old to the new -to avoid the attack.
  • Solving problems is easy, finding the root causes of problems is hard.
  • Nothing is real until it happens to you. Even those of us aware of the design process can fall victim to being a bad client.
  • Diagnosis bias is our tendency to prefer our initial reading of a situation.
  • Loss aversion is our tendency to avoid losses instead of new gains.
  • The brain's primary function is to fill in gaps and make us act on those resulting theories. It makes things up because it doesn't have all the information.
  • What can resolve our people problems? Nothing. That can be frustrating because we are always looking for neat, compact solutions.
  • Instead we need to accept that our systems and people are imperfect.
  • You can learn more from failure than from copying success.
  • Gain knowledge (read, re-read), Practice (look for opportunities to apply your new knowledge), Analyze (make note of what works and what doesn't), Repeat.
  • Many people have trouble kicking off this process. Interpret the experiences and visualize yourself in the situation.