What people need, but don’t know they need it….

When designing, the designers tackles a wicked problem which he needs to address with a given solution. Such solution must be tested, evaluated and enhanced along the process in order to achieve the best result possible. Prototypes are tools into representing ideas that can be tangible, understandable and more important of all, tested by individuals.

I want to share with you the insights that prototypes are able to show the designer. When we talk about prototypes, we normally think about very elaborated proposals, with real life dimensions and almost close to real life appearance. That is far from truth. A prototype is like a sketch. You can find a very rough sketch that represents an idea, or a very well defined sketch to be able to communicate a design to the builder, such as a mechanical drawing. We can find low resolutions prototypes and high resolution prototypes which are exact as the final product (imagine a concept car in a fair. It works, you can sit on it, drive it, but it is the only one of its kind). To build a prototype you just need an idea and trying to materialize it somehow.

Oliver Kemkpens has a presentation in the web about the design process which very much can give you an idea of what I’m talking about: https://www.slideshare.net/ServiceDesignLinz/keynote-oliver-kempkens-jam-2016-design-thinking

From this presentation I want to share a slide which I attached.


In this slide, we can clearly see in idea traveling from a very low resolution prototype which can be a printed piece of paper to later on trying to understand the function and mechanics of it to becoming a high resolution prototype.

Everything can be prototyped. I read the other day an article which prototyped social experiences revolving about photograph capture in social reunions. Such prototype was very basic, it consisted of polaroid cameras which were handed to people for taking pictures along the specific social situation and later on interacting over a bulletin board with the pictures. You may be questioning what was the purpose for that? The truth is that such prototype was done in the year 2000 were social media as we know it didn’t exist!!! With this experiment, they were able to see how people interact in capturing social moments and sharing them, editing them, and receiving immediate feedback from friends in general. Now, we have Facebook, Snapchat and other digital platforms which interact over such parameters. That was an excellent example of low resolution prototype to see social reaction.

We can even prototype how a person feels….

Do you know what a GERT suit is? A GERT suit is a Gerontologic training suit which is used to simulate the life condition of older individuals. You can find more information in http://www.age-simulation-suit.com

I had the experience to try a GERT suit the other day and I want to share with how it felt into being an old person for a couple of minutes. First of all, I want to say that I felt really heavy. That was difficult since it’s amazing to be tired just by sitting around. As a healthy young individual, one could argue that sitting is resting. Such is not so with the GERT suit on. Moving around was challenging since my balance shifted rather unusual. If you tilted a little to one side, you will feel how the gravity affects your posture.

Walking around was peculiar, your balance gets tilted forwards hence you feel all your current weight can make you get some forward speed while walking, not in a good sense, since you can easily fall face ground.

Trying to get up from a sitting position is tiresome. You feel the higher you are from floor level, the easier will be for you to get up. But more interesting than getting up was the action of sitting back again. Your body develops so much inertia in the process of going down, that if by any chance your seat moves you will hit the floor really hard.

gert suit

Reaching objects in a shelf was difficult. For me, the elbows were pretty much tired. I would even say that they were more tired than the shoulders. Picking up something from a higher lever shelf was difficult, you feel heavy. Leaning over to pick something from floor level will definitely affect your back. Normally, to do so, the person must bend his knees in order to do the strength with the legs, rather than the back. Such situation as an older individual is very difficult, hence is most common to end up making all the strength with the back rather than your legs which is not healthy.

The earmuff experience was bizarre. I was able to capture some of the words they were saying to me, but I needed much concentration to try to grasp the meaning of speech. I say grasp because if people are not speaking loud enough you won’t be able to clearly hear.

Finally, the six different glasses will definitely affect your perception of the environment. The most troublesome for me were the macular degeneration and the cataracts. With the first glasses, I was able to cheat them, but I was aware that in real life, when I move an eye to the side, the center blurry spot will move with it. In the second glasses, I saw everything with a veil and I was just barely able to distinguish silhouettes.


In conclusion, we must be very much understanding of older individuals. I have all the previous burden over me for just a couple of minutes and there was no pain involved in the experience, I can hardly imagine feeling every day like this, and having the pain factor in your life.

Well, I must say goodbye for the moment. I hope you enjoyed todays blog, and remember, design is about understanding other people’s needs, but they still haven’t realized they need it!!!

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