The future of design

I know of two industries where we’ve started to refer to humans as users: software and drugs.

It tells you a lot about user-centric design these days.

Starting with good intentions, user-centric design has morphed into something that leverages the understanding of human psychology to make us addicted to (software) solutions.

It has reduced humans to consumers.

Product development teams try to get us to spend as much time as possible on our screens, apps, and digital platforms by designing for addictive short-term fixes rather than long-term value.

User-centric design in software brought us endless scrolling, countless notifications, likes and optimised adds. By disregarding people’s wellbeing, user-centric design can make us feel dependent, anxious and stressed, while encouraging us to buy even more things we don’t need.

Let’s just say it like it is: user-centric design exploits people and planet for profit.

But wait, there are also promising developments. An increasing number of organisations are adopting a human-centric approach, with solutions designed to serve people’s wellbeing rather than corporate wealth. Those organisations feel a moral obligation to design solutions that have a positive impact on human wellbeing.

While a big step in the right direction, human-centric design often single-mindedly focuses on human wellbeing, without taking into account other living beings or ecosystems. As a result, human-centric design risks generating solutions that could harm the wellbeing of non-human actors and disrupt our ecosystems.

There’s one more step we can take: adopt a life-centric design approach that optimises the wellbeing of all life on Earth.

Life-centric design takes on a holistic ecosystem perspective when designing solutions. It understands that we humans are nature and have a radically interdependent relationship with our natural ecosystems.

In the long run, we can only thrive if nature thrives too.

Life-centric will become the prevailing design philosophy in the future. By adopting a life-centric design approach now, you lead the way, build a future-proof organisation, and – most importantly – leave a long-lasting positive impact on Humankind and Earth’s ecosystems.

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