Design for Humanity written by Daniel Eckler explores the relationship between objects and humanity in that it is a symbiotic relationship between function and pleasure. Eckler uses the example of Harlow’s monkeys, an experiment in which a baby monkey gravitated toward the more animated monkey simulator, even though the less animated simulator had its food.
Although the function of the monkey with the milk is more necessary (it provides food for survival), the baby monkey naturally favored the monkey with a greater likeness to itself. Eckler suggests that, as beings who feel, our emotions react to a product or an image stronger than the pull of survival, or function. He discusses how form and function are often key principles in design, feeling plays a much larger role in the effectiveness of a design than what we give credit for.
Essentially, in order for a product to be successful, we as consumers should be able to identify with the product at a human level–it is the just-right blend of these components that makes a design compelling to a consumer.
This concept resonates with me as my specialized interest lies in book publishing and, more specifically, the design of trade books. Although it is very straightforward to implement the necessary form and functions of a book: the title, author’s name, and publisher on the cover, the table of contents, copyright page, folios, chapter headings, running heads and basal text within the pages. However, when the feel of a book doesn’t quite reflect the tone of the writing itself, or even worse, is just downright off-putting in design, a reader is much more likely to put the book back on the shelves immediately. Most consumers don’t think about exactly why they aren’t interested in the book after seeing small print and/or condensed lines. The answer lies in the design. It’s no wonder that the idea of judging a book by its cover is such a cliché when that is exactly what the cover is meant to do–not just to inform the consumer, but to be enticing enough, to evoke enough feeling and connection in the consumer, to take home.
I came across “Typography tips for a better user experience” and found its fifth and final tip to be most notable. The first four–beware of spacing, line length, generic/inauthentic hand lettering fonts, and overcomplicated layouts–seemed (to me at least) to be relatively straightforward knowledge. But the fifth tip, focusing on punctuation and the difference between straight quotes and vertical sticks versus apostrophes and quotation marks, interested me the most because of how often it is overlooked. The tidbit about old typing culture and how “straight quotes are essentially generic punctuation marks created for simplicity and space saving during the typewriter era” caught my attention the most.
Fast Company Design recently published an articled titled “The Dark Side of ‘Friendly’ Design” by Jessica Lehmann that discussed the possibility that an over-saturation of friendly branding has led to its overall sense of inauthenticity and ultimately, ineffectiveness. What started as a unique and eye-catching way to engage the public has evolved into the norm–Lehmann uses the example of Laurel Road, a company that utilizes warm, simplistic design to advertise their services, to state that such a method “minimizes the concern and burden associated with paying it back.”
Upon reading about and viewing the site for Laurel Road, I couldn’t help but compare it with Navient‘s page, the loan company I use.
In this case, although the layout is relatively user-friendly, it is clear that they took a different approach to achieve the balance between accessible and professional.
In her article, Lehmann offers us a solution: we can inject a sense of humanity and honesty to “weave potent truths and ideas together in a way that adds new value to people’s worlds, rather than offering them more of the same.” Even though this seems like an ideal solution, her flowered imagery does not offer any physical or plausible action. Instead, it is reasonable to believe that the ideal she encourages would simply restart the cycle of over-saturation once the new trend had caught on.
Research & Speculative Product/Service Development – Consciousness Banking