It might seem obvious that designers make things so that people can use them, but “user-centered design” is a fairly new concept, evolving over the 20th century.
“Designers have always been aware of their users,” said Museum of Design Atlanta’s executive director Laura Flusche. “But with the rise of design thinking and the emphasis on user interfaces, designers are more and more aware of finding out what the challenges their users are facing. And, that doesn’t ever mean one type of user or one class of users.”
These ideas are explored in MODA’s newly opened exhibit “Beautiful Users: Designing for People.” It comes to them from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Wearable tech is one example of “user-centered design,” and it is explored in MODA’s other new exhibit “On You: Wearing Technology,” created by Georgia Tech’s Wearable Computing Center.
Wearable tech has been around for decades (think hearing aids, headphones, watches), but in recent years, the industry has exploded with commercial products like Fitbits and Google Glass.
“Twenty years ago, products couldn’t have been made because it would have taken batteries that are too heavy,” said Clint Zeagler, one of the curators behind “On You: Wearing Technology.”
He also pointed out that 20 years ago, the interfaces of wearable technology were far too cumbersome to wear, and there weren’t wide-sweeping cellular networks.
Now, though, Zeagler said, “All of those things are at a place where designers can put the technology in devices that can fit on the body, even in fabric, that we wear every day.”
“On You” and “Beautiful Users” are open through Oct. 2. You can see some examples of the products in the exhibits in the photos with this article.