Design is a very large professional field, and it can refer to many separate, more specialized disciplines.
Just take a look at this relatively basic list of various types of designers, from popular freelance site Upwork.
Today, in a time of near-constant software updates and new tech devices, the general public rarely pay much attention to how different products are designed and the incredible amount of work that goes into creating them.
Even more than that, it’s easy to take for granted just how wide the ramifications of design can be.
Designs can tell stories, start conversations, and even change the way users feel.
To learn more about these possibilities, we talked to one of the most innovative designers working today, Jayati Sinha.
Even if you don’t know a great deal about design, this article will open your mind to the many possibilities design offers to users and how talented designers bring those possibilities to life.
Designer Jayati Sinha
Jayati Sinha is a designer who has worked in multiple Indian craft industries and as part of the Environment Design team at Fuseproject, a notable design firm founded by Yves Béhar, and she currently works as a physical and digital experience designer at Fjord.
Sinha also completed a Master’s thesis on products derived from emotions and life experiences, following research on stages of personality development.
Throughout her work in many different areas of design, Sinha maintains a consistent set of goals for her design work.
“As of this second, I call myself a physical and digital experience designer. I have worked as a graphic designer, product designer, environment designer, and now as a visual designer. They are just titles to me. What I am passionate about is creating experiences and strategies that generate empathy, emotion, and engagement by studying people and behaviors.”
Given her professional perspective, Sinha was the perfect person to speak to about how design itself and designed products, whether physical or digital, can be and offer so much more than we’ve come to expect from them.
Design and dialogue
One of the most interesting concepts that Sinha has put forth on the topic of design and our relationship to it is design functioning as dialogue.
So rather than each new design presenting an unflappable standpoint on what “good” design really is and how designers can achieve it, designs can instead communicate something more akin to saying, “This is what I think, what do you think?”
Sinha herself is open to discussing different interpretations of what design is and what it should be, and this openness translates to her design work as well.
“For me, having a dialogue means expanding our capacity to understand different schools of thought and learning from each other. People with different perspectives about what good design is facilitate a conversation that allows us to share meaning and interpretations and maybe come out of a conversation with a new understanding. These dialogues can contribute to innovation and inclusive thinking.”
The core idea here is that when designers (and potentially users, too) find ways to talk to each other about design as a whole, techniques, and intentions, the entire discipline of design progresses, even if only incrementally.
That mention of inclusive thinking is another strong point. Ease of use and accessibility are important topics in many different fields, and it’s laudable that many designers, Sinha included, are actively trying to create designs that don’t feel elitist or overdesigned.
When designers take many different people and many different use cases and perspectives into account, there’s a much better chance of that inclusive thinking leading to inclusive designs.
Welcoming users in
The ultimate goal of product and digital design is to create a product that users will want to interact with for the long-term.
But as Sinha comments on here, there’s actually a very narrow window during which a design can entice and impress the user in the right way.
“The first impression of a product is extremely important. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. And if you aren’t well-received, the user might not even stick around to hear your full story.”
There’s a somewhat recent principle in advertising: you need to get the viewer’s attention in two seconds.
If you don’t manage to capture attention that quickly, the viewer will likely move on to something else or stop paying attention.
Various types of designers face similar challenges. The way a user sees or feels about a design initially may become permanent.
That’s why the ‘first impression,’ as Sinha calls it, is so crucial.
But looking at this challenge as an opportunity, when the first impression is positive, it can help create a lasting, positive experience with the product.
Design and storytelling
If you look around your environment right now, just about every one of the objects you see had to be carefully designed.
For many of us, it’s easy to take that work for granted. If something works well and we enjoy using it, we probably won’t explore it much further than that.
But can these objects, can our smartphone apps and software, tell stories?
According to Sinha, the answer is a resounding ‘absolutely.’
Using a specific interpretation of the meaning and function of storytelling, Sinha feels that the disciplines of design and storytelling are inextricably linked.
“Design and storytelling aren’t two different things. Storytelling, or the ability to make people experience an emotion or take them through a journey, is a tool used to grip users. Work that can’t be talked about is stagnant and has no purpose. Either your work needs to be engraved in someone’s story, or it has to drive emotion for people to connect with it.”
For anyone who isn’t a professional designer, it’s fascinating to think of designs, as eliciting emotional reactions in the user, sparking discussions and exploration as a result.
Try to think of this the next time you interact with a design product. How does it make you feel when you use it? Do you feel that you have a personal history with this design?
Expanding further than that, do you think other people have had similar feelings and experiences with this product?
Asking yourself these questions as you interact with various designs gives a small glimpse into the mind of a professional designer.
Considering all these details, and many more, can influence intelligent design choices throughout the design process.
Let’s dive even deeper into the connection between designs and emotions.
Jayati asserts that designers should take emotions and impact into account during the design process.
The purpose of this technique is to take the needs and experiences of potential future users into account.
Of course, research and feedback can be excellent resources for designers, but there are other considerations that can’t necessarily be predicted.
That’s when the designer’s empathy comes into play, as Sinha explains.
“Work that is engraved in people’s desires or experiences creates stories that are truly empathetic often solve a real problem and are socially impactful. I think that’s what emotional design is: creating products and experiences with utmost care and empathy.”
It’s this design philosophy that can help create the positive effects we’ve been discussing in this article.
When designers take great care to make design choices with all this in mind, the chances are higher that users will have the positive experiences mentioned above.
As Sinha touched on, especially careful and empathetic designs can even have a positive social impact.
There’s a great deal of discussion in the design world about form and function, with form being the visual or generally aesthetic elements and function being the purpose of the design and the practical benefits it offers to users.
Truly successful designs are able to offer substantial benefits to users while also being appealing products that are enjoyable to use.
Design products provide people with services and experiences, but the impact doesn’t stop there.
Good design, ’emotional design’, can excite users, inspire users, and even change their attitude.
This is why public perception of design shouldn’t be so limited. It’s a discipline that’s both practical and artistic, and the resulting products and experiences can do so much more than they appear to at first glance.
If you’d like to learn even more about the intricacies of design and the role that design plays in our lives, we highly recommend visiting Sinha’s official website and listening to the 99% Invisible podcast from presenter and researcher Roman Mars.