The Zone of Abstraction: A user centered process for solution development

This post and process is a natural outcome of pondering over the past couple of days, the conversation we’ve been having on design and imperialism or at least will have elements of fairness and balance, cooperation and collaboration and a hopeful outlook. Perhaps only in my little corner of my world, but if you once promise someone that you’ll see what you can do when they answer your question of what do they want for christmas with the answer “A Better World”.

Let me tell you the story of one of the young twenty somethings who inspire me – a side note, Rory Marinich is a gem of a brilliant mind – but back to designing a better world, Steve Daniels comes to mind. I think he might be 22 but not even that old. He’s already launched a successful student run conference bringing the engineering college of Brown together with the Rhode Island School of Design called “A Better World by Design”. And my vision is to see through his eyes, and all the other eyes of these caring young people who want to clean up the mess we’ve made of their inheritance and give them the tools by which to do so.

But we already have the tools, you’ll say.

I don’t know if we do. I think we have rigid systems or methods with the “one correct answer” but I don’t know if one can apply that approach, of the efficient bottomline, that which cuts jobs, paychecks, quality and value just to maintain profits on a treadmill gone crazy that’s teh quarterly analysts report. Their job isn’t in jeopardy but they make us run on the treadmill and rate our speed. WTF are we rats?


Sorry I digress, back to the point – I think that its not the labels that matter, call it humanitarian design if you like, after all, we’re ALL humans, aren’t we? The point is the intent behind the act. And only thus does the naming then matter. Why? Because this ensures that all of us here from our different perspectives and cultural viewpoints – our common pluraiity, shall we say – know what we all mean by the world “imho” or “grazlitz”

So, in my humble opinion, when we call it humanitarian we automatically associate it with charity and aid, a cost to be borne, a burden, if I may borrow a phrase.

But here’s where Prahalad had it right, by naming it a physical location – the bottom of the pyramid or BoP – he abstracted the poverty=distended brown belly angle into a potentially lucractive market for things that add value, affordabily to people’s lives.

The problem is that their value systems may not always match the value propositions of mainstream consumer culture for a variety of reasons that I’ll collate and publish later. One must bridge the gap in understanding between the two cultures, any two cultures (or system of values or touchpoints ) – map the ideal one to act as filters. It was Dave Tait who taught me this means of ensuring, within reason, that once we came back from fieldwork, we’d be able to synthesize either scenarios or personas against which to test the concepts. The concepts that passed the argument – you call it the bullshit meter – could be reasonably said to fit the needs of the local market.

Could one abstract this aspect into something – a skill? a knowledge? that could be disseminated effectively?

This entry was posted in Business, Design, Innovation, Research. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>