Editor's Note

Art, design and the human experience

By Steve LeBeau
Thu, 2017-03-30 14:49

When business people make decisions, numbers are their friend. They thirst for quantitative data as the basis for judgments. But when predictions based on numerical calculations fall short, it often means “back to the drawing board.” More and more this leads to a journey into the unknown, where numbers become less relevant than the qualitative state of the human experience. The crucial advancement of design thinking in this direction is striving to understand the user experience. It seems as if designers have taken over “the drawing board.” 

People in video production or the performing arts have always been attuned to user experience. If the Guthrie Theater doesn’t entertain audiences, it isn’t doing its job. Feedback is instantaneous. But when it transports audiences to a vivid new reality, it harks back to its Dionysian roots as a magical and mystical place. Perhaps this is why the aesthetic allure of the Guthrie has become an economic magnet for neighborhood businesses and condominiums.

Paintings are less ephemeral, which is a good thing because many famous artists throughout history have not found fame until after they have died, and much ancient art shall forever remain nameless. The bright side is that these enduring works remain poised to provide an experience to a user, which is why Mia — aka the Minneapolis Institute of Art — works so hard to encourage all kinds of people to enter the museum to engage with these works that transcend time. Of course art transcends museums, too, such as when Target uses artists in its product designs, or when a glass artist moves from abstract art to functional pieces.

Heightened awareness goes beyond aesthetic appreciation. Creators of intellectual property must be constantly wary of theft through infringement or cybercrime, and users of technology in manufacturing must pay attention to what’s new and useful. Technology can also foster virtual businesses, such as a new retail accelerator that enables retailers from anywhere to scale up production by getting sage counsel and help finding markets for their wares.

The major defect in developing products before the advent of design thinking was to merely imagine the minds of the intended consumer, without checking it out first-hand. A good example is the man who designed the perfect blue jeans for women — without actually talking to a women. Fortunately, he learned from the experts in finding out about the habits and dispositions of people: anthropologists. They studied women in their day-to-day activities, actually talked to them and peeked into their closets.

Getting to know people dispels pre-conceived ideas, which is why Bruce Corrie introduces us to some business people who happen to be Muslim. Understanding the perspectives of others is crucial in business and life, and it helps balance everything out. We are doing just that by revealing the positive thoughts about President Trump expressed by local CEOs, to balance out a February column in which they expressed their concerns.

I hope you have a good user experience reading this issue!


Steve LeBeau
Editor in chief