Innovation for all - Human-centered design vs. Planet-centered design?

  • Promoting nothingness. Is there a more sustainable way of living than doing nothing? Is laziness sustainable?

  • Understanding humans and the planet are key to innovation and creativity.

  • How and why has the company IDEO succeeded so well in designing human-centered products? But do they consider planet-centric design?

If you think about it the most sustainable way of living would be to do nothing. Even though just exciting uses energy (eating, heating your home/ having a home, etc.) But besides this most of us, humans want to create and we need meaning to our existence. Almost everyone wants and needs to create and innovate on some level. But if we wouldn't, would we live in a more sustainable world? Are the people who society marks as being lazy, actually the people who are doing it right? I think that the right way is to stay innovative and active but do it in a way that is good not only to humans but foremost to the planet. This is called planet-centered design.

"Innovation begins with an eye." - Kelley, T. (2001). "The Art Of Innovation: Lessons In Creativity From IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm". Crown Business.

Sketch of a toothbrush for kids from IDEO designer Thomas Overthun.

Usually, small kids don't have the same fine motor skills as adults and that is why they hold a toothbrush usually in a crib with the whole hand rather than with just their fingers, as adults often do. IDEO realized this difference and designed the toothbrush for kids to suit their hands and method of brushing teeth. Also, IDEO added some features to make the toothbrush more toy-like, which was proven to make the toothbrush and the whole act of brushing teeth more appealing to young kids.

According to IDEO innovation is solving problems without creating new ones. This is an interesting thought to take into consideration since so many innovations are not thoughtfully through before they are brought to the market. Maybe they solve a problem but bring new ones - many times regarding the products lifecycle and recyclability. For example the toothbrush. There are a lot of new products on the market that are "more sustainable" but as the matter of fact, many times are not. Maybe we do not have a system to recycle the new materials used or the product is a mix of materials that makes it hard to recycle or the lifetime of the product is very short because the materials are not suitable for long time use. I have seen many toothbrushes made out of bamboo. Bamboo does not grow in Switzerland and has to be imported from far away. Many times the brush of the toothbrush is made out of plastic and makes it hard to recycle with two different materials.

IDEO focuses on human-centered design but does not speak about planet-centric design. We discussed this topic in class and I found it interesting. Planet-centered design is a method of designing products and services that do not harm the planet. Planet centered design is difficult because often the ways and things we have ed and designed so far are not good for the climate and not sustainable. Often human-centered design causes harm to the planet and that is why we should get away from the idea that we design for humans (that we are the center of the world) and focus on products and services that the planet needs or that do not harm the planet. Therefore we need design processes and tools to create better solutions for society that fit the limits of the planet. Of course, planet-centered design often doesn't fit the capitalistic world that sadly we live in at the moment.

Planet-Centered Design.

One of my classmates came up with an interesting point of The Art of Innovation book from IDEO. It is written by a person who works in the company. One can see from the way the text is written that the text is a little biased and could be used also as marketing material. This leads to the important topic of always being critical - even when reading scientific articles and really thinking to oneself that what is it that I take out of this text and why are they writing what they are.

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