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An introduction to design engineering
An introduction to design engineering

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4 Designing for people

Everything that is designed comes into contact with people at some point. This is mostly through the use of a design, but people are also involved in less direct ways, such as manufacturing, installation or maintenance. Design failure very often occurs because of failures to take account of people. A consequence of the involvement of people is the complexity they bring. Just consider the numerous variations of any object around you. Why are there so many shapes of cup, of mobile phones or of cars? Why can one person seem to operate an object easily while other people find it hard? And why can’t anyone solve the problem of comfortable seats on a train?

This variation and complexity arises from differences between individual people. People are not all the same and their behaviour is certainly not predictable. Here are a few key variations a designer might consider:

  • People vary physically, meaning that design for people has to take account of a wide range of sizes, shapes and adjustments.
  • People have different preferences and thoughts, meaning that what they feel about design and how they interact with it varies considerably.
  • People have a range of circumstances and contexts (family, friends, employment, etc.).
  • People have different experiences and knowledge, which means that a designer might have to make a range of assumptions.

All of these variations mean that designing for people can be a complex process. Dealing with this complexity is a central part of design. In this section you will look at these variations and complexities in greater detail, but this section starts by considering one obvious variation – the physical sizes of people. You will use this variation to explore how design can blend a variety of analytical and creative approaches to respond to design drivers.