discussion around human centered design and human potential
Saturday, March 19, 2005
I came across an interesting story, related by Anders Opperund, of how users can associate meanings with a product that the manufacturer is not aware of. Several years ago Sony was making a "sport" model of its walkman product. The product, clad in a bright yellow casing, promised to be shock resistant and waterproof. Unfortunately for other manufacturers who made then-stylish yellow colored devices, consumers expected any yellow product to be shock resistant and waterproof as well, and were upset if they found they weren't. I suspect some manufacturers got their just deserts by copying the look of the Sony product without the underlying intent. But no doubt Sony copied the bright yellow look for other manufactures (perhaps a toy maker), whose products where never intended to be beach accessories. The original yellow products on the market may have intended the product to communicate friendliness, not ruggedness. They had the meaning they intended to communicate contaminated by Sony's reinterpretation of the color. Goes to show that even after launch, it can be valuable to do user research - your users' understanding may have changed.
I am a user centered design consultant based in Wellington, New Zealand. I have an MSc in human centred computing systems from the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, and a Master's in international affairs from Columbia University, New York.
I can be reached at userinnovation1 [at] yahoo [dot] com