What people-watching can do for design
"How is it that we know so much about the natural habitat of the mountain lion, but so little about the natural habitat of homo sapiens?"
Jan Gehl is a revolutionary architect, who pioneered an approach he calls "in search of the human scale" in city planning. In the 80s, when everything was mass produced on a grand scale, and cities were sprawling concrete jungles filled with cars and smog and chaos, Jan Ghel would sit on park benches and observe.
He watched where people went, how fast they walked, what obstacles they had to move around, and more importantly, he saw what the city could be.
What set Jan Ghel apart was his process. He watched, implemented something, and then went to the space in person and watched again to see how people used the new thing. This "human" scale" may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how often it's overlooked, not just in architecture, but in all design, from products, to systems, to services.
Think about it. How often have you gotten to the front of a queue at your bank only to find you were in the wrong queue? Or not been able to reach customer service because they keep putting you on hold? Frustrating right?
And therein lies the opportunity.
If any part of your business involves interacting with human beings, take service design seriously, and take it from Jan Ghel - start at the human scale.
Services already account for 80% of the UK's economy, and the rest of the world is hot on its heels. Human centred design has always been important, but now, it's going to have a much bigger impact on your profits.
If your business more seamlessly accommodates human behaviour than the shop across the road, where do you think they're going to go?
If you want to learn more about service design, here's the dishy Thomas Cornwall (the world's leading expert on the topic) to tell you about his course.