Design thinking brought to a new level through VR

11 Nov 2016

Mark Curtis, chief client officer and co-founder of Fjord. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

The combination of technology and customer need is a balancing act that designers are constantly engaged in. However, virtual reality (VR) could change the game.

How should we approach design? Given three options of consumer-based, artistic-based or technology-based ideas, the “exciting” and “accessible” reality of today’s industry makes room for all.

Design thinking

Journalist Nellie Bowles recently sat down with four experts at Inspirefest in Dublin to discuss just that.

“Designers sometimes get preoccupied with technology, rather than what they are trying to do,” said Alan Siegel, president and CEO of Siegelvision.

“[They] should look more toward who they are trying to communicate with,” he said, giving one fine example of a hospital getting it right.

He visited a clinic in Cleveland that had developed a patient-first approach, and designers were tasked with making the entire visit for patients an informative experience.

Siegel was greeted with a giant avatar upon his entry to the hospital, and all required information was then presented to him.

Personalised codes were provided, with screens detailing progress wherever patients went. This was a tailored approach to reduce the number of interactions patients need in hospitals, thought to traditionally be around 100.

It was developed by thinking of needs first, technology second.

“Data is just another material,” said Lorna Ross, director of design at Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, “just a raw material that you can create things out of.”

Mark Curtis, chief client officer and co-founder of Fjord, agreed. Explaining that there is a lot of alarming uniformity in the market visually, the Android and iOS stranglehold on mobile particularly frustrates him.

“I think that with the breakout driven by the internet of things, many more devices, many more environments where we are going to experience things; there is a fantastic opportunity for designers to create new, beautiful, different ways of interacting with things,” he said.

VR, it seems, is something everybody is pretty excited about. “It’s not social friendly at the moment, it’s exclusive, and that’s a problem,” said Curtis, in awe of the “quality of experiences” we’re now seeing.

Curtis claims printing in 3D, using virtual reality, is the best example of why this will be “revolutionary”.

“What would Picasso have done with this?” he asked.

Lara Hanlon, designer at IBM Studios, is a new entrant into the industry, with three years of learning her trade.

“There are a million options as a designer,” she said. “It is daunting, especially for young designers, but it’s very exciting as well.

“Design is so accessible, it’s a huge topic,” she said, noting that the explosion of opportunities “opens up the doors” to more and more younger professionals.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to get half-price Super Early Bird tickets before prices go up on 15 December.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic