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Takeouts from John Maeda’s talk to the RCA on Computational Design and Inclusion

Written by: Nick Rappolt

Published on: November 11, 2016

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John Maeda recently gave a lecture at the Royal College of Arts on Computational Design and Inclusion, which was so popular that the crowd spilled into the corridors outside the room. I went with Charlie Lyons, and we came back with four key takeaways from the talk.

John Maeda raised many interesting points when talking about the evolution of design and I wanted to share four of them:

1. He acknowledged that there are a lot of ways to define the word design, but his definition is, ‘a way to make a product more human and desirable’. He quantified product desirability as something that has high familiarity (it’s intuitive), and something that has high novelty (in his words the product proposition is ‘fresh’).

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2. He emphasized the importance of simplicity in design, claiming that, within the tech sphere, Google is improving design the most – superseding Apple. His reason for this was the importance of simplicity in the products (over and above the design language). Why? because simplicity (ease of use) leads to the perception that products are better designed. Simplicity = saving time, which leads to high design scores. This great deck from KCP examines the importance of experience in product design.

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3. There are seven laws (elements) of simplicity in product design – (John Maeda has given a Ted Talk on this topic).

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4. Disruption (due to the advancement of technology) is happening at organizational scale and at a product level. The question we need to ask in the face of both these changes is, ‘how do we become more effective in serving people?’ With disruption, we need to think about designing in an inclusive way – not design for design’s sake but taking into consideration the Total Addressable Market (TAM) of the product and all the ethnic and social orientations of the end users. If you can increase the TAM of your product by being more inclusive, you can ultimately increase the value of your product.