Sarah Lewington : Empathic design through self-quantification

02 : 01 : 2012 Self Quant : Sarah Lewington : Empathetic Design

Sarah Lewington believes self-quantification could revolutionise design. According to Lewington, a senior lecturer in fashion communication and promotion at Nottingham Trent University, self-quant data can inform the design of products to make them more personalised.

Creating narratives
By analysing someone’s personal data, Lewington believes it is possible to create a product that is far more relevant to a user. ‘The designer will have a much greater understanding of how to create products that relate directly to a particular user,’ she says. According to Lewington, self-quantification is about individuals creating their own narratives. She believes that if these narratives are applied to a product’s design it will become far more personal.

Self-knowledge
If designers can understand people through their own self-knowledge it will help them to get inside the skin of their customers, according to Lewington. ‘If a user provides the designer with personal data that comes with a narrative that explains that user – his or her being or self – the designer almost becomes the user and vice versa,’ she says.

Sustainability
Empathic design can also extend the lifespan of a product. According to Lewington, if you can create a truly personal connection between a person and a product he or she will be less likely to throw it away. Just as people are unlikely to discard their first watch for nostalgic reasons, so they will not throw out something that has been designed with self-quant information in mind. ‘You don’t throw things like that away,’ says Lewington. ‘You keep them.’

Lewington says that in future, following the introduction of 3D printers into the home, people will create their own designs based on self-quant information. She envisages a time when ‘truly empathic and individual and bespoke products’ that take into account personal information collected on Self-Quant devices will be designed and made at home.

Top five take-outs

1: Be empathic. By taking self-quantified information and using that to inform the design of a product, you can create something that is truly personal.

2: Use self-quantified information to improve the lifespan of products. By developing a truly personal relationship between a product and its user, you are creating a product with an extended lifespan. People will not throw things away if they feel a deep connection.

3: Create an emotional connection. By incorporating self-knowledge into the design of a product – such as information relating to when and how often a user is happy – you create an emotional connection.

4: Give data meaning. ‘The ultimate problem for a designer is how to present data back to the person that has provided it and make it meaningful to them,’ says Lewington. A product that shows that collected personal data can be useful will truly connect with its user.

5: Look to the future. Lewington believes that in the next 10–15 years people will be creating personalised products in the home that use self-quant data to inform their design.

Magpies app and interactive bracelet, a concept for a Unilever which allows couples and friends to monitor each other's actions and stay connected Magpies app and interactive bracelet, a concept for a Unilever which allows couples and friends to monitor each other's actions and stay connected
Magpies app and interactive bracelet, a concept for a Unilever which allows couples and friends to monitor each other's actions and stay connected Magpies app and interactive bracelet, a concept for a Unilever which allows couples and friends to monitor each other's actions and stay connected
Magpies app and interactive bracelet, a concept for a Unilever which allows couples and friends to monitor each other's actions and stay connected Magpies app and interactive bracelet, a concept for a Unilever which allows couples and friends to monitor each other's actions and stay connected

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