An End to User-Based Thinking – Biological Perspective

Interview for Communications Community Office at the Government of Canada conducted by Jeremy Harley.

Ant foraging strategies as individual and social processes. Photo taken at the ant exhibition in Museum of Nature, Ottawa. (Alëna Iouguina, 2014)

Ant foraging strategies as individual and social processes. Photo taken at the exhibition in Museum of Nature, Ottawa, titled Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants. (Alëna Iouguina, 2014)

J: What do you mean when you say that we as developers, communicators, coders and designers need to stop thinking of our clients as “users” and start thinking about them as people?

A: ‘User’ is a misdirected term. To say that it is about ‘the user’ trivializes the scope of the interaction design process. As human-beings, we are not looking to simply ‘use’; we are looking to interact and communicate, as well as accomplish our goals in an efficient, effective, safe, and maybe even aesthetic and fun way. While it is ok to use the term ‘user’ to communicate the standardized concept across disciplines, we as researchers, developers, communicators, coders and designers must be mindful of the complex world of creators and ideators we are tapping into.

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BBC – 3.1: How to Read Scientific Papers

Time to be resilient. Time to evolve, adapt, and attune to changes in my schedule. I have officially started my MDes degree, and am now faced with a rubber raft, being shipwrecked in the ocean of new information, as the brutal blinking cursor is beating down on me like the sun.

It is best to take the raft of least resistance and raise the stakes. Instead of summarizing the entire research and concept in one post, I am now spending more time at each design phase and extracting what might be relevant and useful to other designers, who would like to practice biomimicry as much as I would. Let’s start from the beginning. Discovering and Identifying a challenge, or – as we like to call it – opportunity. Here is a Design Spiral developed by Biomimicry Institute that summarizes the process of Biology to Design and Challenge to Biology:

Solution-based and Problem-based approaches. © Biomimicry Institute

By designer for designers: how to decipher and make sense of scientific writing

The first step, regardless of your choice of approach, will always lead to scientific papers. Understanding them is the key to a deep inspiration.

Sure, the term ‘discover’ could also mean that you put on your detective cap and I get my giant magnifying glass and we go see if we can find some clues. But this will likely still lead you to more questions that can only be answered by experienced scientists. Very few start-up designers have a luxury of having a biologist at the table. Scientific papers is the next best thing. Right now, I am taking my time with papers from medical fields and seeing if I can find correlation of challenges with biological systems. That means, a lot of science-related writings that can be extremely overwhelming to someone with an industrial design background.

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