Design as a tangible expression of human sensitivity, combining aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality, through intuition, active listening, and data analysis
It is a word imbued with meaning. Design is intertwined with Art for the value, for the creative effort of a person, author, artist, creator. But if art can also be an end in itself, without a functional purpose, without a practical use on the part of the viewer, who can therefore remain a spectator, design is devoted not only to beauty but also to practical functionality, so that an object, a work, correctly carries out a task, the task of being used in the most rational, efficient and exciting way possible by people. They, from spectators, become real interpreters-users, if we want an integral part therefore conceived by the designer in his design, in his project, in his creation and modeling.
Create. From zero Fahrenheit finally a heartbeat, a jolt, which brings warmth, human warmth leads to being a means to create in order to give usufruct to other human beings. Just as in the night, at the bottom of the sea, the last waves allow the light of dawn to be born, so from the cold of solitude, which breaks the back, and breaks the conscience, a stranger comes towards us with a gift in his hands, a gift that brings warmth, human, because finally a person has thought of us, yes, of us too. Yes me too. Ergo, sum, this gift is for me, a person thought of something that was for me, he thought of me, because after all I too exist, I want to exist, and how beautiful it is to exist. This gift, it reminds me of my existence every day, because thinking is feeling, it is feeling the existence of others, and feeling is listening, and feeling is emotion, and feeling is intuition.
The heart, our true reason, from an eternal nothingness that I want to be archaic, gives life to the beat, to the heartbeat of feeling, a feeling that ignites memory and listening, and that intuition of creating and modeling to reach us, starting from us, from our experiences, to improve them. To make us actors, not spectators, happy with existing and experiencing, works that are made for us, thought and felt for us, by those who are listening, here is the importance of those who create, plan, design, give life and function if he truly knows how to broaden his view by listening to what, and who, is beyond the window of his atelier.
The concept of Design pertains and has its own space not only in art, but also in technique, technology, engineering, science and history. Works of science and technique imply the achievement of the right design to exist and be enjoyed and experienced. And these creations, in the most decisive cases, have determined the change in the status quo, marking a real passage of era (even generational) of doing and being, therefore inscribing themselves in history. The names of great persons who have marked eras with their design are many, but not very many, and this is also what makes them so special.
Gustave Flaubert said that “The man is nothing, work is everything!”. In some ways, this thought can be shared, the work is what remains tangible of what man has created. But the memory, the memory of this creative man, is also important, and remains in the collective imagination, especially if inscribed in the history of art, and in history, as an artist, technician, scientist, designer. It is right, it is a right, and it is fundamental for us today to know to whom we must express a thought of admiration and gratitude, for the intellectual works that we observe, contemplate, use and experience on a daily or almost daily basis.
Certain works of design are so beautiful that they become fixed in history and in the imagination, determining the birth of new cultural drivers, which people make their own, so much so that a specific object can become the identifier of a certain type of person, but it is also true the bidirectionality of this concept, that is, that a certain type of person can become the identifier of a specific object designed for them. It is therefore also right, by virtue of what I have expressed, that the most important art galleries, such as the MOMA in New York, dedicate entire areas to design.
Furthermore, certain arts are closely related to design, let’s think about architecture and plastic art, product design, photography and cinema, music. But certain disciplines of science are also sisters to design, let’s think about ergonomics, biodesign, user experience design. Without forgetting the technological aspect, let’s think about web design, user interface design, and communication design, the latter within which communication, in particular visual communication, is redefined in relation to technological innovations as well as to the aspect of productive developments and of social reorganizations.
But let’s see, speaking and not in chronological order, some designers/entrepreneurs/inventors of projects (therefore understood as design) who have strongly changed people’s way of living, therefore inscribing themselves in history for having outlined a new era, which marked the end of a status quo. I will start with an object that I have here near the PC keyboard, the Apple iPhone, which together with other wonders such as the iPod and iMac, have revolutionized the concept of mobile telephony, listening to music and personal computers respectively; they were conceived by two illustrious minds, Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive.
The personal computer, however, was born many years earlier, in the first half of the 1960s, by an Italian (Italy is one of the homelands of great inventions and design), Pier Giorgio Perotto who created for Olivetti the famous Programma 101. Previously people wrote by typewriter (the famous Olivetti Lettera 22 by Marcello Nizzoli and Giuseppe Beccio, among the very first portables) was written on paper, but who invented paper? Almost 2,000 years earlier the Chinese Cai Lun, a dignitary of the imperial court, starting from scraps of used fabric. I cannot show you a photograph of this character, because the inventor of photography, Thomas Wedgwood, was not yet born. Photography is a very fascinating art, which had a real consumer boom in the 70s thanks to Polaroid’s instant photo, in particular I’m talking to you about that jewel that is the Polaroid SX-70, one of the many important patents by Edwin Land, and whose design could see the light thanks to the pencil of Henry Dreyfuss.
With an object like this we had a lot of fun, for example immortalizing life outdoors with our family, beautiful years, previously perhaps we took a small portable battery-powered television with us camping or on a picnic, the Algol 11” Brionvega was memorable, designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper. On such a small, black and white screen, you certainly couldn’t appreciate a film, especially if we’re talking about a masterpiece of philosophy and film design, like The Shining, for which Stanley Kubrick made use of Garrett Brown‘s improved Steadicam for many shots (of incredible visual power). A film like this should be watched in a cinema, the latter splendid invention by the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière.
Certain images are truly powerful, think for example of the Pink Floyd album covers created by Storm Thorgerson and his famous studio Hipgnosis. This British photographer and designer marked an era with his covers, not only for the legends that are Pink Floyd, but also for another legendary group such as Led Zeppelin, then again for Genesis, Black Sabbath, and other important musicians.
The brilliant intuitions of these great characters have warmed our hearts, think of Thomas Edison‘s incandescent light bulb, or Guglielmo Marconi‘s wireless telegraphy, or the Wright brothers‘ first airplane. There are also quite singular stories, as they say of necessity-virtue: this is the case of the first credit card, which Frank McNamara developed after one evening he had had the inconvenience of having forgotten the cash to pay at the restaurant; hence the name Diners.
Today they are objects that are easily part of our daily life, we don’t even think about them, we swipe the card for breakfast at the bar, then in the office we turn on the laptop and go online, Tim Berners-Lee‘s www was a great invention, and what about the Hedy Lamarr‘s invention of wifi? Certain inventions, such as the wristwatches for military use by Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe, were born in dark times, to reach the present day and an “almost common” use (I say “almost” because today a Patek Philippe very few can allow). I have experienced some of these epochal changes first hand, I am thinking for example of the advent of search engines on the internet, first Altavista (Ken Olsen) and Yahoo! (Jerry Yang, David Filo), then clearly Google (Larry Page, Sergey Brin).
These epochal works were great achievements, and some of them we will probably find forever in our lives, they were designed for us, with brilliance, with culture, with preparation, with intuition, with feeling, with listening, with style.
Style, another meaning of design, and in this, style, the stylist is the designer par excellence, and even in this area history has experienced eras decreed by the genius of some creations, such as the travel trunks designed by Louis Vuitton which revolutionized the way of traveling thanks to their wooden slatted structure, and the fabric to replace the leather to make the lids flat but at the same time water-resistant, and to make the trunks stackable; or even the Gucci loafers designed by Aldo Gucci, son of the founder Guccio Gucci, the first unisex loafers which with the addition of the equestrian horsebit on the upper became the emblem of casual chic, and the elegant formal loafer par excellence, beautiful, practical and comfortable, an alternative to the less practical and less comfortable lace-up shoes.
The word is English, and, as mentioned initially, it has multiple meanings: project, drawing, plan, sketch, studying how to create something, conceiving. We could say that design deals with the conception of objects, architectures, environments and digital functions, graphics, experiences, concepts, through the drafting of a project aimed at bringing together the aspect of functionality, the aspect of ergonomics, and the aspect of aesthetics, all three fundamentals. To bring joy to the eye, to solve practical problems, and to improve experiences.
Through careful consideration of materials, colours, proportions and functionality, the design aims to harmonize aesthetics with practicality, towards solutions that are as pleasant as efficient. Design helps shape our environment, and influences our visual and sensory experience.
Design is the tangible expression of human sensitivity, a language that is articulated through shapes, colours and functions to communicate and interact with the world around us. At its core, design arises from the ability to perceive subtle nuances, to grasp often overlooked details, and to translate these insights into creative and functional solutions.
Sensitivity plays a fundamental role in the design process, as it allows designers to capture not only practical needs, but also people’s emotions and aspirations. Creating objects, environments or experiences that resonate with people’s sensibilities requires careful attention to detail and a deep understanding of human dynamics.
Furthermore, design feeds on implicit learning, a process through which we acquire knowledge without necessarily realizing it. The experiences accumulated over time become an integral part of our understanding of the world, influencing the aesthetic and functional choices we make in the creative process. The designer, through implicit learning, draws on a vast archive of personal and collective experiences, thus enriching his baggage of inspirations and intuitions.
Another crucial element in design practice is actively listening to people. Building meaningful and useful solutions requires a deep connection with the target audience, at every design stage. Listening to stories, investigating and understanding otherwise unexpressed needs, grasping the nuances of everyday experiences is fundamental to shaping a design that goes beyond mere aesthetics and immerses itself in the very fabric of people’s lives.
Design is not just a matter of aesthetics and functionality; it is an act of sensitivity, implicit learning and empathetic listening. When design embraces these dimensions, it becomes an art form that not only satisfies tangible needs, but also enriches the human experience, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Design therefore, starting from the sensitivity, intuition, implicit learning and cultural background of the designer, gathering internal and external experiences, must approach people at every stage of the project, they are the true sextant that can guide the navigation route. However, this absolutely does not mean that we cannot take over an already finished project to improve it: looking at TSW, there are many brands that have turned to it already in the early stages of a design project, but there are also many brands who turned to TSW, entrusting it with the improvement of products, environments and contexts, interfaces, services and websites already placed on the market.
In our laboratories, and in real contexts, TSW’s experience designers and researchers in neuroscience, cognitive science, anthropological and ethnological sciences test, listen, analyze and study the different experiences that people live every day. From this point of observation, which is not a point of arrival, but a re-starting point, the foundations are laid to improve, to make more efficient, to model, to shape, or to conceive, create, give birth to something of which people are an integral part and are the center of perspective, something they can believe in and recognize themselves in, something that will improve their experiences for a long, long time.
As in everything, there is a starting point, a sprout, a glimpse, which gives the kickoff so that all the components align, and the engine, the heart, the project starts, or re-starts. This incipit is called intuition.
In the context of UX design, intuition plays a crucial role along with research and data analysis. While research and analysis provide concrete information and quantifiable data about users and their needs, intuition comes into play to interpret and apply that data to improve the project.
In product design, intuition can emerge in the creative process, suggesting innovative solutions that may not have emerged from research data, or because the latter are difficult to find (the latter situation, however, is never desirable; the support of data coming for example from usability tests, has an immeasurable value). In essence, a designer could understand that a small aesthetic detail or an extra functionality could generate a positive response from users, even if these elements were not explicitly requested in the research phase.
The selection of shapes, colors and materials often comes from intuition refined by experience. The beauty and elegance of a product can be intrinsically linked to the designer’s ability, given by professional experience and internal and external experiences, to perceive visual harmonies and to translate this perception into design choices that go beyond functionality.
Intuition is the driver of innovation in Product Design. The ability to intuit new approaches and solutions outside of conventional schemes constitutes an intuitive perspective that is often the basis of revolutionary products that anticipate user needs, overcoming the limitations of pure rationality.
In the field of communication design, intuition can emerge in the initial phase of the creative process. UX designers, drawing on past experiences and aesthetic sensibilities, may have insights into how to effectively communicate a visual message. These insights are often supported by implicit understanding of how colors, typography, and layout can influence people’s emotions and perceptions.
However, it is essential that intuition is always balanced with research. Analyzing data relating to target audiences, design trends and past performance of communications campaigns helps validate, correct and refine the trajectory of initial insights. The combination of intuition and data allows you to create designs that are not only aesthetically appealing but also effective in communicating the desired message.
In web design, intuition often plays a role in defining user interfaces and navigation experiences. UX designers can get inspiration on how to organize information intuitively, what visual elements capture the user’s attention, and how to ensure a natural interaction flow.
Intuition, therefore, can ultimately constitute an impulse to resume the journey and add a piece to the design; a good intuition is confirmed in the subsequent in-depth understanding of users and their online behaviors. The analysis of navigation data, user tests and site usage metrics provide concrete information, a corollary of the good usability and effectiveness of the proposed design. Intuition then turns into testable hypotheses, and the combination of intuition and data allows you to continually iterate and optimize the design for an ever-better user experience.
Intuition does not replace research and data analysis, but rather enriches them. Intuition is the result of past experiences and creative sensibilities, but must be tested through the collection and analysis of concrete data. The synergy between intuition and data in the UX Design process allows you to create projects that not only satisfy aesthetic needs, but also the needs and expectations of users in a concrete and measurable way.