Home office, video conferencing, fewer business trips, more free time in your own four walls and, above all, more digitization: if futurologists are to be believed, these are no short-term slip-ups as a result of the corona pandemic, but things that are becoming the “New Normal”. In the first few months of the crisis we had no choice, the changes just happened and we had to come to terms with them. But over time we will ask ourselves whether the new normality of digitization is of use to us or whether we are merely driven by a virus.
I believe: The “New Normal” is a challenge for us designers. The digitization push of the last few months was very technology-driven, now we have to focus more on people again and that goes through good design. People do this instinctively. Many report that they renovated their apartment, laid out their garden or found a new hobby. They rearrange their environment, remove disruptions and try to improve their lives in private.
Yes, it has to do with design, at least as it is understood in English. Design is how something works, even more: Design is how something feels to me, not haptically but emotionally. In German we usually narrow it down to appearance, but that falls short. You could say that many people go through a design process during a crisis in which they redesign their lives.
Design makes sense
I would go even further. Good design overcomes complexity and makes sense. And it makes us feel something positive. In times of crisis, design should take away fear, not stir it up. An example: the Corona warning app. I think she could do her job better, at first she was unsettling with error messages. A good app doesn’t stress with a red flashing light, but gives the feeling of having everything under control.
Digitization demands a lot from us, sometimes it almost overwhelms us. The smartphone is close to our heart, it is an extension of our brain and our senses. This can be stressful, sometimes intentional. In fact, on social media, fear is part of the design concept. The number of followers and likes constantly creates pressure and releases endorphins in our body, which can lead to addictive behavior. This is what Facebook and Instagram want. For more information, check out the docudrama The Social Dilemma on Netflix.
Managers think like designers
What makes me optimistic is that more and more executives think like designers. There are many signs of this. Our IPO was not only an accolade for the company, but also for the importance of design in general. And the MBA program is developing more and more into a design school – Design Thinking has made a difference in Germany, among other things. by the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam or in Switzerland by the University of St. Gallen (HSG). The first of my students from there are now taking up management positions in companies. They approach development projects completely differently by asking the question: How might we? The how stands for the certainty that there is always one, usually even several solutions. That could encourage people to try different ways of finding possible solutions. And the We indicates that you can only make it in a team, not alone.
Another concept that I would like to recommend to you is the Minimum Lovable Product. You probably know the minimum viable product. These are the minimum properties that a product must have in order to be bought. The Minimum Lovable Product goes one step further. Here the product does not want to be bought in the first place, it wants to be loved. It doesn’t matter how many people are. You have developed an app that 1000 people think is great but nobody else knows? No problem, because these 1000 fans will ensure that the rest of the world is soon talking about your app too. Can be scaled later. No matter how small the niche for your product may seem at first, take advantage of it!
Cut away unnecessary
However, “Minimum Lovable” does not mean that as few people as possible should love your product. Rather, it is also about the minimum level of properties that are necessary for people to love the product at all. Often there is only one function that is necessary for this, all others can be shortened first. This is particularly difficult for German engineers, who prefer to publish a product only when all conceivable functions are integrated and working.
Instead, it is better to start with a core function and then develop the product further in exchange with the user community. A good example is Google Maps. At first it could only navigate, but it was very reliable and very easy to use. And you didn’t have to register or provide a credit card. For users to love your product, you first have to give them a sense of achievement.
If the coronavirus has one good thing, it might be that we become more aware of what we humans are and how we want to live. In the new normal, people will take a closer look at which app, which service makes their life better, takes away fear, reduces complexity.
Boris Jitsukata is the managing director of the design company Goodpatch