Humans Aren’t Digital

As we commented in our earlier article on The Power Of The Pencil, a successful design is only possible because of a creative process which has very little to do with technology at its initial stage. Digital technology is now a crucial part of all design but what many people forget is the human element behind it and that it must be of relevance to the customer experience. A space planning design for a shop interior might include a wall full of screens in their store, but what makes that technology relevant is a human idea and that’s what makes the technology work in the first place. It’s not an either or, it’s really important that you have the idea in the first place.

Emma Gullick illustrating

Because we now have all this amazing digital technology everyone wants to do something really impressive with it. They want to utilize beacons or interactive screens that customers can react with but what is that really offering a customer, what is that bringing to their life? Probably nothing. It’s a gimmicky thing which is being done just because it can.

I recently went to a really interesting talk by the designer Sebastian Conran. He was having a big debate about “the internet of things” and how people are desperate to make everything talk to everything else using technology. Do you really want your table to be able to connect to the internet? In two years’ time that technology will be completely obsolete and you’ll have to buy a new table. However, if you buy an incredibly beautiful handcrafted table you will probably keep it forever. That’s a key consideration for any interior design, what you build has to last.

It all goes back to the idea that we are human, we aren’t digital and therefore a lot of what we interact with still has to have that human element to it. We’ve started to see touchscreen tables being used a lot and the design of the actual table often completely neglected because it’s all about that screen. The most important thing is that it still needs to function as a table.

There’s a famous example from a few years ago concerning the Piccadilly branch of Barclays. They installed a huge plasma wall which allowed people to click onto a tablet and locate events and attractions. That might sound like a nice idea but when you actually think about human behaviour why would you go into a bank to find out about the local tourist spots when you could just look on your phone or speak with a friend. The technology might be really clever but what an extreme amount of money for something which isn’t needed at all in a space which could have been used in a better way.

There are some things being done digitally in banks which actually are enhancing, rather than being flashy and gimmicky. If they’re using that technology to speed up transactions, cut down queues or to offer virtual assistance it will directly help customers, that’s actually using digital in a functional way to improve the human experience rather than put digital in the space just to show how forward thinking you are.

It ties in with our philosophy of The Power Of The Pencil and our belief that everything needs to originate from the human creative process. Only then can you truly utilize technology in a way that will help the customer. If you want to create a successful brand identity and you want your retail space to succeed, it’s crucial to remember that humans aren’t digital!


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