Chapter 6. Thoughtful

Delight beyond the first impression

AT ITS CORE, HUMAN-CENTERED design is about empathy for other people. Designers include research as part of their process so they can understand people’s lives and situations, channeling their concerns and needs while suppressing their own biases. But empathy is only a foundation, a way of inspiring designers, and the meaningful outcome is in the action it prompts. Design is an act of service, a way to care for other people by making things that support them and improve their lives. In this way, a product is more than just an object; it’s a linkage between people, a tangible representation between designer and user that says, “I thought about you, and I think you’ll like this.”

How do you treat people when you invite them over to your home? Guests deserve generous hospitality, so you go above and beyond to anticipate their needs and make them feel comfortable. The designers Charles and Ray Eames used the concept of the guest/host relationship to inform many of their projects, channeling this moment of human interaction and embedding its values in the process and details of their work. As Charles saw it, the role of the designer “is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests.”[207] He felt that this quality was “an essential ingredient in the design of a building or a useful object.”[208]

Thoughtful design is found in the details, in the ...

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