Opening Doors at Austin Design Week

Austin Design Week 2018

Having joined M3 Design this Summer, I am a bit of a neophyte to the design industry. Yes, I’ve worked in marketing for my entire career, but focusing on product development day in and day out is very different from branding and positioning an entire entity.

This week I had the opportunity to see some of the trends in design during Austin Design Week and the theme, “Open Doors” is a great metaphor for how products can bring individuals and groups together. A few of the highlights included:

  1. Simplicity is key whether managing a complex mechanical device or a software application. Make designs easy for the people using them.

Simplicity was the overarching idea during a session at GE Aviation with regards to programs and platforms Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) have to manage on a daily basis. Rather than one simple system to sign into, over the year ATCs have accumulated multiple software applications to manage everything from ground control to tracking aircraft in the air to the dynamics of the flight itself. Having so many different platforms to maneuver was cumbersome for controllers—to say the least. So the team is developing one platform to help with the issue. When sharing with controllers, they were ecstatic. Sometimes the best solution is to simplify the old ones.

  1. Designers have always been thoughtful hosts thinking about the needs of their guests—and we need to evolve to appreciate the needs of all stakeholders.

Patients aren’t products. Many of this week’s sessions focused on the Future of Healthcare, an issue M3 Design cares about deeply. Finding ways to give patients a voice and empowering them to make better choices is critical. Perfect products aren’t necessarily the answer. Our healthcare challenges today and tomorrow require mutually beneficial, complete solutions—solutions that encompass the needs of all the stakeholders: doctors, patients, insurers. Dell Medical School at the University of Texas provided participants with a great example of how experiences are beginning to overtake simple designs. By using their technology incubator and design applications, the school has created a unique experience for patients. A view into the future where the overarching experience for all people at the hospital is top of mind.

  1. Look for the spaces in-between the rules of design.

This doesn’t just speak to our Industrial Designers and the need for white space in visual designs. This is also an important point for our engineers—whether mechanical, software or electrical. Often when journey mapping with customers, designers and engineers will seek to understand the touch points when customers first encounter a brand. But experiences have to be appealing at every touch point. It’s about developing a true understanding of and appreciation for the product lifecycle and every stakeholder who interacts with it along the way. Where one design firm might focus on the “end user”, and user-centered design has been a staple of the profession for years, M3 Design focused on stakeholder-centered design. A surgeon might use a tool, but to neglect the needs of the nurses and technicians as well as the patient themselves, is a mistake. We as a community can do better to look for the spaces in-between these traditional rules of design.

Overall the third Austin Design Week was very worthwhile for all engineers, designers and design enthusiasts around the City. Maybe next year we can entice some people to make the twenty-minute journey up to Round Rock? There’s some cool design firms and one major technology company up here that are worth seeing, in my humble opinion.

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About M3 Design
Founded in 1996, M3 Design is a product development company located in Austin, Texas. We craft and execute product development strategies for leading technology-based companies.