Crowdsourcing + generative tools = crowdgeneration
Asus and Intel take a shot at crowdsourcing. You can now design your dream PC at www.wepc.com. Having people design their dream product is a tried and tested way to discover user needs and preferences. Nokia had people in developing countries draw their dream phones in the OpenStudio project. Liz Sanders is a staunch evangelist of generative tools and techniques as a means of discovering (especially latent) user needs. By combining generative techniques with the power of the web (2.0) you get crowdsourced generative tools, as for example the wepc website, and the online redesign community redesignme.org.
Who are the designers?
Redesignme.org’s members mostly seem to be (aspiring) designers, which means that the designs at that website are more sophisticated than the sketchy designs at wepc.com. As a consequence the designs at redesignme.org may be more than just carriers of user needs; they are designs in their own right. On the other hand they might be less ‘trustworthy’ carriers of user needs, because they are not not made by naive users, but by designers, who might be suffering from the designer-user gap.
Designs that are not designs
In a paper called Facilitating ‘user push’ in the design process*, Diane Gyi outlines the power and pitfalls of user-generated designs in the design process. She points out that viewing user-generated designs as ‘designs’ might be missing the point. User-generated designs should not be considered designs, but containers of valuable information in a form that generates empathy:
The designers were also frustrated at the quality of some of the sketches. In fact on de-briefing the designers, they suggested that they should sit with the users and sketch their ideas as they were talking. It was also observed that it was hard for the designers to let go and in this case study they needed to re-sketch and remodel the original designs for presentation to the rest of the company. Yet the personal format of the original annotated sketches and models could be a powerful way of bringing user views into the ‘boardroom’.
* Gyi, D.E., Campbell, R.I. and Cain, R., ”Facilitating ‘user push’ in the design process”, Proceeding IEA 2006 Congress, RN Pikaar, EAP Koningsveld adn PJM Settals, Elsevier Ltd, Maastricht, Holland, 2006.