- [from steve_portigal] The Pyramid to Enlightenment is Upside-Down [design mind] – [Jon Kolko questioning Maslow as a framework. In my just-published interactions article (editor: Jon Kolko) I leverage Maslow as a framework for considering the consequences of product development/experiences] I've been thinking a great deal about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the one we all learned about in our introduction to psychology class in college. It's shaped like a pyramid (no, not the food pyramid – that's yet a different iconic reference that's been diluted through misuse and only partial understanding), and it describes the various artifacts, emotions, and qualities that we need to survive. At the base are things that most of us take for granted – basic needs like food and water, and needs tied to safety, like clothing and shelter. After these core elements, we move into more convoluted spaces where objects stop being so immediately provocative – things like love, self esteem, and the holy grail of self actualization, where we find things like creativity and ethics.
My latest interactions column The Hard Work Lies Ahead (If You Want It) has just been published.
Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” from 1943 is a well-known psychological framework that has been applied (directly, or through derivative versions) to thousands of diverse problems. Our work often brings us back to his hierarchy as we consider addressing a richer set of needs through the stuff we’re making. And while I like to look at and think about people more than stuff, I feel as though we’ve come to a point where we aren’t thinking hard enough about the “stuff.” It’s high time to leverage this style of hierarchy to challenge the types of user experiences we’re enabling with the stuff we’re making.
Get a copy of the PDF here
Previous articles also available:
- Persona Non Grata
- Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me
- The Journey Is The Reward
- Hold Your Horses
- Living In The Overlap
- Some Different Approaches to Making Stuff
- Poets, Priests, and Politicians
- Interacting with Advertising
- Ships in the Night (Part I): Design Without Research?
- Ships in the Night (Part II): Research Without Design?
- We Are Living in a Sci-Fi World
- On Authenticity
- What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting It
- Elevator Pitch
- Kilroy Was Here
- Never Eat Anything Raw
- Content, the Once and Future King
- [from steve_portigal] Thoughts on Maslow’s Hierarchy [lunchbreath] – [Wonderful cartoon that looks at the hierarchy as reflected in Tony Hawk, the dog, and robots]
- [from steve_portigal] The user experience of hot dog buns [FatDUX] – [Eric Reiss in a light-hearted consideration of hot dogs, buns,and global culture] Now here in Denmark, I’ve never seen anything except side-loaders (Gosh, who knew there was a technical term for this). That is until yesterday when I discovered the “Grab Dog” form-fitting hot-dog holder from the Danish bakery, Paaskebrød. An innovative solution? Absolutely. But a good solution?
- [from steve_portigal] First World Probs Launch – [The definitive reference] FirstWorldProbs.com was launched as a sounding board for those who are privileged and still suffering. With unemployment at 10% in much of the Western world, and the rest of the world in far worse financial conditions, it's sometimes necessary to tacitly acknowledge that the "problems" we tackle on a daily basis in the first-world aren't so severe in a greater context – even though they can cast a dark shadow on our everyday lives. "Patrick Moynihan wrote a great piece…in the early 1990s about 'defining deviancy down' – at the time, some communities were so overrun with crime that they had to adjust their standards to ignore many petty violations to allocate their manpower to tackle the serious issues. However, it's also possible sometimes to see that the inverse is true. When all your basic needs are satisfied, it can be downright depressing to break a heel or spill your latte on your favorite suit. You could call it 'defining deviancy up', if you will."
The need statement (“People need… blah blah”) is a cornerstone of user research. Observations, patterns and insights (all our hard work!) distilled into succinct statements neatly pointing to the problem that we are empowered to solve through design. I have long been pondering the use of (and occasional over-reliance on) the need statement (“It’s not an insight if you can’t turn it into a need!”). I have certainly seen the pursuit of the perfect need statement wander into the realm of the absurd at the project level, but they are especially funny when encountered out “in the wild.”
While preparing dinner the other day I noticed this pasta packaging
I’ll bet my pasta can kick your pasta’s ass at meeting needs!
The pasta packaging’s need-shouting put me in mind of this terrific skewering of an exaggerated marketing-department-generated need statement from what is possibly the best review of anything ever, John Phillip’s review of the 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT for Car and Driver magazine (not found on the Car and Driver site anymore, but full text can be found here):
“Cadillac’s brand manager says, ‘Cadillac research showed that there was a real need for the EXT.’ A real need for a Cadillac pickup? Really? If so, then here are a few things that I really need: An air-conditioned front yard. Iguana-skin patio furniture. Stigmata. Mint-flavored Drano. Gold-plated roof gutters. A 190-hp MerCruiser SaladShooter. A dog with a collapsible tail. An office desk that converts into a Hovercraft. Chrome slacks. A lifetime subscription to Extreme Fidgeting. A third arm. A fourth wife. A smokeless Cuban Robusto. Reusable Kleenex.”
Along those lines but even more ridiculous, here’s another example from a recent post on the blog Sociological Images (CNN Reports on High-Tech Blow-up Doll like it’s an iPad – NSFW!) about a robot sex doll profiled on CNN. The author of the post deconstructs CNN’s interview with the inventor of this product, adding her own interpretation.
“‘There’s a tremendous need for this kind of product,’ said [inventor,] Hines…Translation: Sex dolls are like food stamps and day care; their existence fulfills an important and tremendous need. What? You don’t have one? How do you live!?”
While the pasta claims may be over the top, my noodles did at least meet the need of filling my belly. If we recall Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that there is, well, a hierarchy of needs from survival to enlightenment. But the Escalade EXT and the robot doll challenge the fundamental notion of need altogether. Or at least over-dramatize it. Do these products (or 100 calorie Oreo snack packs or scoop-free automatic litter boxes or even iPhones) really exist because we need them? When marketers make such claims do they believe that people really do feel that they need these things? Or that they will if they hear them say it? When we, as researchers, use need statements at the front end of the development process, do we always believe them?
Maybe our introduction of (and insistence on) the need statement at the beginning of the process trickles down, and we’re all convincing each other that people really NEED the things we’re designing. Perhaps we could consider a different word to describe the “need” for objects and experiences such as massive gas-guzzling pick-up trucks and robotic sex dolls. “Want” works for me.
See also: Personas Leaking Outside the Enterprise
Here’s my laugh of the day, from Maslow and Branding
Remember back in your Psych 101 class when you learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Bet you never expected to see it again in the business world
WHAT? Maslow is an overwhelmingly cliched and over-used structure in the business world. I wish I had a nickel for every variation and reapplication of Maslow that I’ve seen. I don’t take issue with Jennifer’s points specific to branding (frankly it was hard to really get to them, with that intro), but to claim some sort of clever uniqueness for bringing this into branding (or anything) is really silly.
Cliche aside, I did present a basic version of the hierarchy to my Design Research students this week, showing them that they can (and should) design for all sorts of needs, and as they do research, they’ll see interesting ways that the needs are related. One group is looking at nutrition, and obviously food is an amazing category for physical, emotional, and other types of needs all occurring at once. I’ll note that I went through a whole thing about how it is indeed cliched and once I had shown it to them they were guaranteed to see it a dozen other times in short order, and that it was absolutely over-used in business.
Funny, then, to see it presented this way so soon after.